It is in visiting Change for Children projects, in meeting those impacted by this organization, in witnessing the change and the difference that can be made to real lives, real people, real families, that I am reminded that while it is the big things that separate us all over the world — miles, circumstance, opportunity — it is the little things that connect us. It is the common threads.
I meet Yalmar in the community of Disparata, Nicaragua. Yalmar motions for us to follow him. The slingshot he had previously been wearing as a headband now tucked into the front of his jeans held up only by the top button. Yalmar is the leader of the group. The group of brothers, sisters, cousins (I lose track of the relationships, but it doesn’t seem to matter) lets him be the spokesperson when I ask if they live nearby. Yalmar doesn’t hesitate as he clambers over the barb wire, plastic jugs, and boards that mark the entrance into the small spread that his family calls home. We all follow suit. Baby sister rests happily on one hip secured by big brother’s arm. With the other arm, Yalmar motions to the surroundings Vanna White-style as if to say, We have arrived! Welcome! What can I show you first?! He is positively beaming. And so, the tour begins.
It is here that I recognize more of those little things.
Little things like the joys of a backyard. Yalmar’s yard is home to ducks, and chickens who roam freely in and out of the yard between the strands of barbed wire strung between tree trunk posts that make up the fence that surrounds the small property to keep animals inside. Criss-crossed with clotheslines, the yard is part garden, part pigpen, part construction zone, and part soccer pitch (of course!). A collection of bricks sits in wait. When enough are amassed, a new house will be built. My own yard at home is only slightly less muddy than Yalmar’s given the gaping hole awaiting my deck reconstruction and although it is about the same size as Yalmar’s, the fence that surrounds my property is designed to keep things out. I have a backyard too, though I don’t kick a soccer ball around in it nearly enough.
Little things like having a bedroom to call your own. Even if you do have to share it with your siblings. I have a bedroom too, and it’s messy, just like Yalmar’s. Our favourite things are both on display and our clothes are everywhere. And although I don’t have spiderman sheets, my nephew does and I bet he and Yalmar both go to sleep dreaming about having superpowers.
Little things like feeling safe at night. Despite miles and circumstance and opportunity, we both close our doors to keep the bad guys out at night and we both sleep under the same stars.
Little things like having a place to gather — a kitchen table to take meals around together. Inside the black tarp walls of Yalmar’s home, the kitchen table is square and wooden and well-worn. One of the legs sits at a distinct skew on the packed dirt floor. There are no cupboards, no drawers. The family’s dishes, the colourful plastic variety, are stacked atop the table. He uses the yellow cup to offer me water scooped from the rain barrel. He is the perfect host.
At home, my kitchen table is round and sits on a pedestal. It boasts a white coat of paint I methodically distressed to give the appearance of being well-worn. I sit around it with my own family feeling blessed and happy and loved, just like Yalmar does around his.
These little things could tend to divide us, but in this moment, it’s what makes me feel connected.
Despite sometimes vast and sometimes uncomfortable and often unjust differences we observe and experience – it is the common threads that still connect us. And perhaps what drives us to seek to add threads of joy and threads of hope and threads of change to the lives of others.