Day 1, Hours 0

It’s a strange but not unfamiliar feeling.

It’s the nervous excitement that had come over me when I was 15 years old; weeks, days, moments building up before my semester abroad to Australia.

It’s the anxious butterflies that flew as I boarded the plane to South Africa last year for my first international volunteer trip.

It’s hearing that deep, fearful voice trying to convince me that I don’t have to do this; that I can just keep going about my days and my routine. That I’m fine as I am. That life is comfortable as it is.

It’s listening to that even deeper and stronger voice reminding me that nothing great has ever grown from staying comfortable. That voice reminding me how weak the legs that fear stand on actually are…remember how easily they folded from the very first hello from a stranger; how completely they broke from the first view of a beautiful, new landscape; how crippled they stayed after I made my first memory in a new and lasting friendship.

But mostly, it’s the intuitive knowing that this unknown I’m about to walk down is going to challenge me and change me in ways I can’t yet exactly tell…but sure that it’s in a way that will make me stronger and more proud of who I am as a person in this life.

In all of my past journeys I have had the mentality of wanting to fully submerse myself – to try to truly understand the people, the history, the culture without judgement and comparison to what I’ve considered and been taught as “normal” in my life -to really view the world from a completely different perspective, and appreciate it for all it is. And ultimately in the end, that submersion always leads to the realization that down on the human level, we are more the same than a first, superficial glance would lead you to believe.

This journey of 99 hours is no different. Although geographically, the people I will meet on this journey are neighbors, in so many ways we are living worlds apart. The first, superficial glance gives the impression that I will have nothing in common with the man begging for change on the exit ramp, the child who hears gunshots at night, or the elderly woman who lives alone with no family to visit her……but experience has taught me better than that.

These 99 hours of volunteering are 99 hours of stepping outside of myself. 99 hours of submersion. 99 hours of listening. 99 hours of understanding. 99 hours of empathy, of caring, of compassion. 99 hours of realization that on a human level, we are all the same..

99 hours of unity. 99 hours of love.

Two Birds // One Love


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