Subdued Sunday afternoons at The Leadership Center are perhaps my favorite time of the week, where I hang my urban US-life hat in the deep corner of some Narnian wardrobe … and find the space to sink into the rising bread of rest. Here are the slow rhythms of sweeping, scrubbing, siesta-ing, sitting for long hours by the shady river.
The rain came for the first time on Wednesday – the rain that the farmers and their scorched corn have been longing for now for 6 weeks – and with it, the bull frogs.
Their nearly aromatic bass line either keeps me up or puts me to sleep at night, mainly depending on whether I can acculturate my own heart to its slowed-down steadiness. The students’ screams have superseded the frog’s belching several times throughout the weekend – if not in bass, fortunately at least in brevity. First at graduation on Friday night, then when next year’s room assignments were posted in front of the comedor on Saturday, and with certainty later tonight at a ferocious soccer match.
I’m ensconced in the tempo of their celebration.
Throughout the weekend, I’ve had much opportunity to reflect on the gift of the space we hold here at The Leadership Center. As Cohort 10 graduates, marking our 10th year of celebrating new leaders, entrepreneurs, and community developers entering the workforce to bring about ethical transformation in their country, we also recognize that as an organization, we’ve learned and grown a LOT.
We at TLC are Hondurans, and, as they call us, Estadounidenses (United States-ians … marking a significant, if covert, by-law of Latin America, which is a subtle pointing-out of the egocentrism that for US-ians to call ourselves Americans is to negate that fact that anyone who lives in any country of North or South America is also an American). At TLC, we are also a mezcla (mix) of other countries and cultures from Europe and now also from Africa (welcome, Kayla).
We celebrate that in the coming together of multiple cultures, there is gift – great learning – for all. We recognize that the building of this organization itself has not happened passively, but with great intention – with slowness, investigation, curiosity, openness to be wrong and to change, and with a recognition of what we hold in common and what we don’t, and how both of those things make us stronger.
For myself, as an EstadoUnidense, I’ve learned much from my Honduran friends about the relationship between hope and joy. I’ve learned more about myself – where I stand on the continuum between acceptance and ambition, tranquilidad and passion, caramel and chile, cinnamon brown and fiery red.
I’ve learned more than books can share, over the years since 2014, from the resilience, serenity, gentle acceptance, and wild-hearted joy that characterize so many of the Catrachas (Honduran women) that I’ve known and loved.
At TLC, the women also are influenced in large part by what I’ve come to recognize in myself as cultural – because of its deep trends with my other US-ians – from our driving ambition, our optimism to create, our deep cultural belief that hard work and opportunity are intrinsically connected and one certainly follows the other – which is, in one way of thinking, privilege, and in another way of thinking, HOPE. A deep belief that to build and to create is part of our nature, and freely available for everyone.
And at TLC, we build. It’s a unique way of building – of creating – this cultural mezcla, mixture, marriage … to weave together tranquility, resilience, and joy, with passion, optimism, and drive. This is not to say that there are black and white lines between our cultures – but certainly trends. Mental software. Generational, community values.
And to build together is, at times, quite challenging – yet certainly stronger.
We celebrate not only the 14 aspiring leaders in Cohort 10 – we celebrate our own growth, the recognition on a deeper level of who we are together and who are growing to become. The recognition that as we partner with women to create deep generational shifts in their own communities, these women impact and transform us as well on a generational level.
As a US-ian, I am challenged in my own values – not only because I want to hold more firmly to the gentle acceptance and resilience so characteristic of my Catrachan neighbors, but also because I’m regularly exposed in my cultural awareness of systemic privilege and resource-sharing.
For me, to recognize how much I want to see these women thrive in our partnership also calls me towards recognizing the powers in place and the structures that have allowed me to thrive but have not allowed everyone to thrive … and to start to challenge them. To be more deeply convicted to share more resources across borders – to challenge systemic injustice – to learn how to be a better neighbor – to creatively consider opportunities for economic development that allow people to remain rooted in the communities they love instead of fleeing them.
These lessons take time – they don’t happen all at once. And the calling, for me at least, is to stay in the work. To stay present with my Catrachan neighbors – to stay present with my own self-examination – and to respond to the deep movements, the calling, in me … which is to say that to build a more joyful and hope-filled world together often requires a great level of personal awareness, change, and creativity.
May the joy and hope that result always outweigh the challenges – and call us ever onward, higher and deeper.