It's 2006 and Cristina and I are walking towards Cuyalí on an overcast day in Honduras. Heavy rains over the past several days have caused a creek to crest its bank and flood the local road. We are expected in the village and need to somehow traverse the flooded waters. I attempt to leap from one rock to the next but land in about a foot of water. Cristina watches safely from a rock, contemplating her next move.
This is a picture of my lawn. I tell people that it's a tribute to the many varieties of grasses and weeds that grow in Virginia. When lawn care specialists knock on my door, I can see the excitement in their eyes when I answer.
"The grass is always greener" is an expression I think about a lot. In the case of my yard, the grass is greener on just about every other property I can see. Sometimes people use this old saying as an excuse not to take a risk or challenge themselves. They don't want to leave their comfort zone, so they stay where they are and convince themselves that the new opportunity wouldn't lead to anything better. There is no doubt that seeking new pastures can be a positive, life-changing experience.
Paradise is . . . experiencing the sense of awe.
"I'm tired Dad! Can't we stop?" my youngest daughter, Bridgette, pleads, slouching her shoulders and huffing as the words come out of her mouth. Up ahead, my oldest daughter, Addie, is looking miserable, sitting on a bench and asking my wife, Cristina, how much farther to the top. "Come on, Bridgette, you can make it," I say. "We're almost there."
Paradise is . . . the bond of family.
I enter the doctor's office with my oldest daughter, and we both take a seat in front of the woman checking us in. She is seated behind a computer, asks for the name of my daughter, and then slides me a form. "We are updating our patient information," she says dryly. "Please fill this out." My daughter and I find two seats in the waiting room, and I begin filling out the paperwork. It's going along fine until I reach a question that asks for the race and ethnicity of my child. I start laughing. I turn to my beautiful, brown-eyed little girl and think, Now that's a great story.
Paradise is . . . being inspired.
What inspires you? What gives you an energy boost (naturally, in this case), puts a smile across your face, and fills your soul with the feeling that you are strong and the world is full of opportunity? If you've read the book or perused this website, you know I'm a believer in focusing on these things. It's not always easy, but life in El Paraíso taught me that inspiring stories are all around us. They are everywhere, but you have to be willing to seek them out. There must be a determination to filter out everything around you that is wearing you down and zoom in on that which inspires.
When we arrived in El Paraíso, I saw garbage-strewn streets, dilapidated housing, and a population that appeared, upon first glance, disinterested in improving their plight. I saw little reason to be hopeful that Cristina and I could have any impact. So, I moped around the house, complained about our seemingly impossible situation, and made myself miserable. I was, in a word, uninspired. Then, something happened.