“See the world” has always been my answer to the age old question, “What is your deepest desire?” When I was little it was my automated response to adults who were interested in what I wanted to do when I grew up. When I learned of bucket lists, after watching the heartfelt movie The Bucket List, my deepest desire was to visit all seven continents and 50 states. Upon deciding my college major in 7th grade, which I declared to be anthropology, I had high hopes of experiencing the world. Needless to say, I was gifted many World Travel Encyclopedias throughout the years – you wouldn’t imagine how many different variations there are! Barnes & Noble must have made a fortune off those who cared about encouraging my passion. My favorite of these volumes was The 7 Wonders of the World (the original version, not The 7 Wonders of the Modern World, Natural World, Underwater World, Engineering World or Ancient World – all gifts safely on my bookshelf back home). I easily spent hours lost in wonder, wandering from India, straight to Peru, and ending my day in Jordan. Tomorrow would be just as exciting, anticipating my visits to China and Brazil. As a teen and young adult, I spent very little time consciously in the United States. Presence – living in the moment – was a foreign concept; my “here and now” always consisted of the terms “there” and “when”.
Now that you know a little of my past, it won’t surprise you that the other day I was extremely giddy about an email from my uncle titled, “7 WONDERS OF THE WORLD”. It was written in all caps, making my heart pound even more as I opened the link. I was in for a treat! Like always, I was given a portal to another world, a sort of life preserver that would allow me to close my eyes, lean my head back, clear my mind of my present world, and float to a faraway land of future promises of adventure. I’ve never viewed it as running away, but I guess that’s what I was preparing to do. I was ready to drop all my difficulties and run. Run from my problems, the problems of my fellow corps, and the problems of the mothers, which I have committed to help carry if only for a little while. My mind was packed and ready for the journey, but to my initial shock, I wasn’t about to go anywhere.
Things started off normal, nothing to alert me that anything was amiss. The email described a class of students trying to come to a consensus on which places make up the seven wonders. I was eager to test my own knowledge. They decided on 1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids, 2. Taj Mahal, 3. Grand Canyon, 4. Panama Canal, 5. Empire State Building, 6. St. Peter’s Basilica, and 7. Great Wall of China. Now, I knew the Great Wall, the Pyramids, and the Taj Mahal were all correct. My mind was racing through my books, fact checking. It was then that I started to notice something was off with the layout of the email. Finally, I came across more dialogue. The teacher was asking one girl, who had been quiet throughout the entire class discussion, if she was finished and agreed with her classmates. She explained she was having trouble making a final decision; the teacher prompted her to share her own list.
She read, “I think the seven wonders of the world are: 1. To See, 2. To Hear, 3. To Touch, 4. To Taste, 5. To Feel, 6. To Laugh, and finally 7. To Love.” It was obviously a chain email, encouraging me to not let my busy life be too busy to share it with others. Where most people would think that was nice, or maybe even a waste of their time, I was stopped in my tracks, dumbfounded. It hit me so hard it actually hurt. I was moved and embarrassed in one overwhelming burst of emotion. Did I really need to escape my life to be excited and happy? Was the future prospect of getting away the only thing keeping me going each day? How sad a life I was living that I couldn’t recognize things to be excited about in my everyday life! Shamefully, I remembered the common Maggie’s Place phrase “duty of the moment”. We have a mentality here where we try to live our lives in the present. After nine months here, there’s no more expectation that I will get to the gym on time, be able to read a book or Skype my fiancé. The “living for the here and now” perspective reminds us to live in the moment, but most importantly to do it with love; not allowing ourselves to be hardened by missed expectations. Living in a world outside of the moment sets you up for failure and disappointment, or even more upsetting, you find yourself missing truly special moments in your everyday life. At Maggie’s Place, running away to the gym and turning my phone off means possibly missing a spontaneous game night, a CPS case ruling, or even a birth.
These past nine months, like the children inside our moms, I have grown and developed. I’m learning to live in the moment, without expectation, and finding maturity to properly handle the curveballs God pitches my way. I find time to go to the gym, but leave my phone on just in case, and don’t feel discouraged when I get that SOS call, beckoning me home. I thought I mastered the concept of presence, something that had perplexed me for 26 years, but this email shattered my illusions. I was better at being physically present, but I was still living in a faraway land, literally. I was in the Ituri Rainforest attempting to ride an Okapi, instead of painting toenails, watching Sister Act for the 20th time this week and missing the side-busting laughs that that occur every other scene.
The greatest wonder of the world, of my world, is to love. After time in jail, years of substance abuse, having experienced mental, emotional and physical abuse, these women love their children more than anything in the world. It’s a miracle they can even give love in the magnitude they do, after everything they’ve gone through. And, I get to witness it. I witness this miracle every day of my life at Maggie’s Place – women willing to do whatever it takes to make a life of comfort and love for their children. I watch women work 15 hour days for their children, carry strollers, diaper bags, purses and more on the bus, (and around Phoenix in 100 degree heat!). Love is all around me, and my happiness is contingent solely around opening my eyes and embracing this wonder.
So, here I sit at the computer, rereading the email from my uncle and I think – how could I have possibly missed these? I know I will always long to see the Seven Wonders of the World (in every variation), but I will no longer miss the seven wonders of my world.
By Sarah Gregorini, MissionCorps Member at The Elizabeth House