.Nashville, TN: On a snowy day in November of last year, my friends Jill and Kate met me at the Thistle Stop Cafe to talk about non-profit fundraising. Kate's dad, Bill, started a non-profit called Houses of Hope Africa. We discussed how Thistle Farms does fundraising and how the girls -- the friend of and daughter of Bill (and as artists themselves) -- could raise money for HOH Africa. As the brainstorming wrapped up, I half-joked with them:
ME: "I wish your hearts were with women in Nashville instead of kids in Africa so you could just fundraise and be a part of Thistle Farms." (Selfishly.)
THEM: "Yeah, but if you met these kids, you'd see how amazing they are." (Compassionately.)
ME: "I'm not much a 'kid-person,' so I'm not sure how much I'd connect... but it would be cool to see what it is you're so passionate about... and I've never been to Africa...." (Slightly pondering.)
THEM: "Well, would you ever consider coming to Africa with us?" (Totally seriously.)
The offer was incredible: an international trip with friends (albeit not having spent any time traveling together), a chance to see another part of the world (Africa!!!), an opportunity to help others (even if only in a teeny way, outside of my comfort zone). Plus - with the help of a promoter friend - a chance to tag on a few days of work in the UK on our way back home, with the girls performing around Great Britian, while I Tour Managed.
It seemed fairly obvious what my answer would be. I mean, what do you say when presented with such an opportunity?
Six months later, Jill, Kate and I -- along with Ryan (their manager / friend / videographer / JackRyan-Of-All-Trades) -- were in the Nashville airport, ready to board a plane across the world.
Today, it's been two weeks since we left for that trip and I'm now back in the comfort of my own home, shaking off the last bits of jet lag and wondering how to sum up said two weeks. There's so much to say and yet, what do you say to explain the adventure and the beauty and the heartbreak and the amazement and the exhaustion and the laughter the last two weeks held?
Since Jill and Kate have a song called "What Do You Say," I thought I'd use that question as a way to try and explain some of the things I saw and experienced while in faraway lands.
What Do You Say:
When you go an orphan home in Temba, South Africa and aren’t really sure how to connect with the kids?
Have fun and show them their beauty... by using selfies!
When you have to start almost everyday in a car (for at least 4 hours at a time... and most of the time on unpaved roads) before the sun rises?
Enjoy the African sunrise.
When you’re told there’s no internet or cell service for five days?
Freak out for a day... then relax and look around at this simple and peaceful place you are in.
When there is no electricity (including lights) and it is dark by 6pm?
Stare at the stars.
When you can’t shower for three days?
Put on a little lip color in the middle of nowhere.
(I recommend Gloss-A-Holic by Brett Freedman
over a little Julia's Lip Tint)
When you realize there is only a hole in the ground in a little concert block, which will serve as a bathroom?
Buy a toilet seat cover to sit on, ask your friends to sing outside the area when you're going (to avoid pee-scare) and be thankful for a the new meaning to a “room without a roof."
When your hosts ask what you want to eat?
Request "zim fries" and fried dough, made over an open flame by the gracious woman of the house, who wakes up at 4:30am to cook for her guests. Outside and in the dark.
When you and the kids in Whunga, Zimbabwe don't speak the same language?
Walk them with them the 3 miles to their school and when they return home for the day, share the language of music together.
When you want to show the women who give their lives helping orphans who have survived lives of poverty, abuse or HIV (and sometimes all three) that you care about them?
Spend time listening to their story. Share a gift from Thistle Farms with them and remind them they are connected to other women of the world.
When you have a chance to see wild animals in their natural environment?
So, what do you say when you're asked to take risks and step out of your comfort zone and spend a bunch of money and disconnect for a week and have a long to-do list upon return (while dealing with crazy jet lag) and deepen friendships and see what a small part you are in this big ol' world and do your little part to help others and even grow even more grateful for the gifts you have in your life?