As part of the Beaches Social Media Moms conference last year, I had the chance to participate in a Reading Road Trip to one of the local schools near Beaches Negril in Jamaica. We were supposed to do something similar the year before at Beaches in Turks and Caicos but it ended up getting rained out, so I was really looking forward to this part of our trip.
This picture I took of some of the kids from the schools is one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken. It says what my heart felt that day, the words that I can’t write down to share with you.
We spent our time at a local school called Happy Hearts, which looking back seemed almost like a bit of foreshadowing for the day we had. When we arrived at the school, other bloggers immediately went and sat down next to kids in the room. It took me a minute to get in, and I ended up sitting next to three little girls who weren’t quite as enthusiastic as some of the others to have visitors.
One of the girls was working on an assignment in her notebook when I sat down and didn’t take her eyes off the notebook as I pulled out the first book. The second girl was more alert and ready to read, that is until she saw the fun other kids were having with the HP Sprocket portable printers some of the other bloggers brought. She quickly made her way to another table.
That left me with just one final girl whose name I wish I could recall but can’t. I’ll call her Sarah.
I may not be able to remember Sarah’s name, but I remember her face. And I can still see her eyes glued to the words as I read to her about Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty. As I used different voices like I do with my son back home. And I can still feel her excitement as she picked out book after book for me to read, never saying a word. These simple books and my act of kindness meant the world to her. Or at least it seemed that way.
Three years ago I organized and ran a carnival as a service project where we invited kids that were participating in low income summer camp to come play games, eat snow cones, and win little prizes. I remember my heart breaking when I found out that many of those children weren’t in the camp because their parents had to work during the summer and couldn’t afford childcare, many of them were in the camp because their parents just didn’t want them at home with them. Their parents didn’t want them.
I don’t know Sarah’s story. I don’t know if she has two loving parents at home. I don’t know if she has an entire library of nursery rhymes waiting in her bedroom or if she doesn’t have a single book. What I do know is that being around her and reading with her made me feel like a better person. Not because I was serving someone else but because she was teaching me to appreciate the little things because not everyone is so fortunate.
For some people, getting the chance to read new books when strangers come visit is as exciting as Christmas. And getting to play carnival games to win a piece of candy is the highlight of their year. And having someone care enough to spend time with them, listen to them, and just be their friend can make a difference that many of us will never comprehend. A difference to both the child and whoever chooses to be their friend.
Over the past few years I’ve been searching for happiness. I’ve traveled around the world and back again. And I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not found in any of those places. For me, it’s found in giving back to others when you’re so blessed yourself. Happiness is found when you’re lost in loving and serving others. Lose yourself and find something even better.
I read a best selling book years ago called The Happiness Project. The general idea is that the author chose things every month to work on that she thought would make her happy. Things like laughing more, exercising, service, spending more time with family, working on relationships, etc. The method to her madness is a little much for me, but I like the idea of working on one happiness focused goal once a month.
I’ve decided to follow her lead and create my own happiness project. Instead of focusing on all sorts of different things though, my project will be focused on service, random acts of kindness, and giving back to others. Focusing on one thing a month that blesses the lives of someone else. Kind of like a pay it forward type thing. I haven’t finalized all of the details yet, but I’m starting in May and I’ll be sharing adventures and experiences from the project along the way. Because photos and memories like this one are worth way more than any amount of money.
Take Your Own Reading Road Trip
Reading Road Trips are a program provided by the Sandals Foundation where guests staying at a Beaches Resort & Spa or Sandals locations, like we were, can be taken to local schools to read, play, and donate supplies to children at local schools. It’s not just something done as part of the Beaches Social Media Moms Conference, you can sign up to do it too when your family stays at Beaches. And I think that’s amazing. You can learn more about the Reading Road Trips on the Sandals Foundation website here.