Filled with Purpose
We're continuing our story telling week and if you haven't paid attention to any of the other stories... I hope you pay attention to this one.
what does it mean to find purpose?
What does it look like? How does it feel? How would it change you - To go from a life of emptiness to a life of purpose?
Its indescribable and yet I'm going to try my best. This story is the hardest to share because its the hardest to get right. Words could never truly capture what I saw, what I felt when Monica shared her story with me in December.
One thing I noticed about Monica before meeting her - she was always wearing a shirt that says "HAPPY EVERY DAY" in pictures. Although Monica probably doesn't understand the wording, she exemplifies it. She wears a constant smile, a positive attitude, and radiates light to those around her.
Monica and I had our big bonding moment on slaughtering day. We bought a new knife set and unaccustomed to sharp knives, Monica cut her finger badly within the first minute. It was bad enough to need a stitch or two but I used what I had on hand: hand sanitizer, wet wipes, tissues, and band-aids. She would wince and look away every time I put hand-sanitizer on her wound but was patient as I wrapped her up each time. I pretended like I knew what I was doing, totally clueless, and making mental notes to buy a first-aid kit.
In Monica's mind, it solidified the fact that I am on their side.
Monica started our one-on-one conversation telling me that she's never known how to look after anything living except growing vegetables in her garden. "Now I can keep chickens - its a new thing for me. I love it so much!"
Our conversation quickly grew more serious as she told me about her unsupportive, abusive, and alcoholic husband. "He doesn't believe in development," she told me. He doesn't care about their 5 kids going to school, he doesn't want Monica to be a part of our project, he doesn't support the family financially. He just doesn't care.
Life is hard in Kunchubwe Village as it is - but when I hear stories like Monica's I'm forced to imagine myself in her shoes. I try to imagine this heavy burden she carries around every day - the burden to give water, feed, clothe, educate, parent 5 children all by herself. And not just by herself but actively struggling against the person who should be supporting her.
Imagine a woman carrying 100 pounds on her back, walking up a steep hill and every 30 seconds a boulder comes barreling down the hill for her to dodge. Thats what I imagine Monica and so many other women's lives in rural Zambia to be like.
"I didn't know if the project would be enough. I didn't want to keep fighting with my husband at home. But the women and Alexandre told me to stay strong. I see where I am today and I thank God I stayed."
There's something beautiful about understanding in spite of language barriers. Before my translator could even tell me what Monica said, I knew it was something special.
"the best part about this project is its given me purpose in life. i have joy knowing when i leave the house i am going to work."
Monica told me, "I'm different than I was before." I think about that woman walking up the hill with every hardship you can imagine and I wonder if Chicks Empowered is lightening her load, declining the hill, protecting her from the barreling boulders.
I knew Chicks Empowered had the potential to change lives, to provide an income, to raise up women as business leaders. What I didn't expect was for Chicks Empowered to be a source of joy in a life of struggling.
"My kids see me now with purpose...
They encourage me before I leave and are inspired by my work. They see that I'm changing because of this."
And all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, this project became about way more than just 8 women earning an income - but changing the mindsets of an entire community. To open their eyes that their is hope beyond their gardens and waiting for the rains to come - there is more to life than just surviving.
I told Monica, "When communities change, it starts with one person. That one person changes the hearts and minds of their family, that family inspires their neighbors and friends, and it grows until a whole community is different than it was before. And you are that one person."
Its moments like this one that I'm reminded of my own purpose. In this line of work, its easy to only think in terms of numbers, and it makes you almost callous to the real impacts you have in people's real lives. And I decided on that day, if Chicks Empowered was all Love Abounds ever accomplished and Kunchubwe Village was the only place we ever impacted, it would still be worth it.
There's no better way to end this post than the way Monica finished our conversation. She told me to give the people supporting Chicks Empowered this message:
"People may never know their gift has helped an orphan go to school, for a child to have a meal. Maybe they'll never see for themselves the difference in our lives they've made but they should know they've given us a great gift we didn't have before. i have more hope now than i had before."