A Bittersweet Goodbye
I turned in my BlackBerry, with its nicked edges and worn down buttons, a device that had become another appendage over the last three years. With one last glance at my employee badge, I said goodbye to the image of the bright-eyed, younger and shorter-haired version of myself. The wear and tear of these items was representative of what I had gone through physically and mentally on the seventh floor of 520 Madison Avenue. These articles had become so much a part of my life. And while parting with them felt freeing, it also left me with a strange emptiness, like a piece of me was being taken away or left behind.
Although I knew it was the right decision to turn down my associate promotion, a bittersweet feeling washed over me as I stepped through the clinical glass doors to the automated elevator bank. I watched as the floors counted down to the lobby; the lifeless, metal doors opened and I stepped off the elevator into freedom. The sound of my dress shoes echoed off the white stone walls that were adorned with large modern art as I exited through the revolving doors into the warm June air. A tornado of thoughts swirled around in my head. I had formed meaningful relationships and shared many Seamless meals, late nights and early mornings with these coworkers – we spent more time together than I did with my family or closest friends. I had been personally impacted and influenced in essential ways through my time behind the computer screen as an analyst. The workplace was like a rock tumbler, a refining environment that taught me many indispensable lessons about business, but also life – patience, endurance, surrendering control and trust.
New Perspectives, New Beginnings
With my belongings in storage, apartment lease and job contract expired, I took off to the airport with duffel bag in hand. The next chapter of my life would begin with a week-long mission trip in Haiti with Helping Haitian Angels. I knew that my experience in the western portion of Hispaniola would not only be significant, but also symbolic as I exited the world of high finance, suits and cell phones and entered the hot, dusty and poverty stricken, yet beautiful streets of Haiti. I was brimming with excitement as I anticipated meeting the young man that I had been sponsoring over the last few years for the first time, yet anxious as I was not sure what to expect on my first service trip either domestically or internationally.
The hot equatorial sun beat down on my pale skin as we walked across the tarmac to the Cap-Haitien International Airport. A hot breeze carried a distinct smell into my nostrils; my senses were on overdrive as I took in the mountainous landscape around me. There were countless highlights from my week in Haiti: forming deep connections with the other volunteers, being invited to play on the Kay Anj soccer team against another local village in near 100 degree heat, squeezing 29 individuals into a Toyota Tacoma meant to hold five passengers, letting the children teach us Haitian Creole, playing two-on-two basketball, teaching the kids how to swim at the beach and visiting Haiti’s version of Target, the Haitian Market.
The Wealth of Intentionality and Relationship
Despite the incredible moments shared, the most impactful element of the trip was receiving the unconditional love afforded by the Kay Anj children. Regardless of their economic status, what they offered was something that I had never experienced before from my family or closest friends.
The tender touch and powerful, yet warm gaze that searched through the depths of the soul was made even more effective by the way these children embraced the present. As their eyes gently locked with mine I perceived an intentionality that they were entirely committed to that very moment, mining the richness of relationship with another human being. They were not preoccupied with their to-do lists, where they were going next or with what they did not have. The children displayed a wealth that all people possess but few tap into or realize they have. We, myself included, are always moving from one thing to the next so quickly that we fail to extract the full potential out of each moment. In many instances we live life skimming the surface.
In a time where I felt a stripping away of identity found in my career, it was beautiful, healing and refreshing to be seen and known by these amazing children. Although we were hardly able to communicate verbally, what each child was able to convey with their eyes, heart and intentional presence is something that I will never forget.