The sun was still shining on the glistening petals of my front yard tulips when we started our meeting at 7 pm last night, a sure sign that Spring is truly here. The official arrival of this most prolific of seasons brought with it the knowledge that our June departure is now just around the corner. A scant 81 days from now, 7 pm will find us resting our travel-weary heads on pillows south of the equator, in a town known as the Gateway to the Amazon, poised for a week of work unlike any of us have ever experienced. Eighty. One. Days. Tick tock, tick tock.
The weight of that 81 days was palpable last night as we came together online, the topics and discussions feeling less abstract and more concrete than they have in previous meetings. We discussed our parent questionnaire at length — longer? shorter? open-ended? checkboxes? – ultimately needing to table the discussion so we had time to cover everything else on our agenda. We gave and received sneak peeks at the presentations we’ll be giving, and started to hash out details about the who, what, where, and when of translating both our materials and what we have to say. We started what will be an ongoing conversation about technology needs — what will we take? what will we buy there? what will we leave behind? — and sketched out agendas for our final 2 meetings.
If there was a common thread that ran through the meeting, it was the desire to know. Maybe you’re familiar with this desire — it often feels like and is voiced as a need. I need to know what the parents want from me so I can be sure to meet their expectations. I need to know what each child is struggling with so I can be sure to have the right materials to deliver the best intervention possible. I need to know what the staff know, and what they want to know, so I can teach them. I need to know what the weather will be like so I know what shoes to pack. Alas, these “needs” are really just wishes to know that which is largely unknowable. For even if all of these needs were met, I know as sure as the sun shines that life would deliver a surprise — that cold snap when all I packed was flip flops. Our desire to know, I think, is really about finding a way to ease our worries about comfort, safety, and professional and personal adequacy. It’s a way to control variables and experiences.
I recently did a meditation for which the centering thought was “we control our lives by knowing what counts.” That thought came back to me last night, after the meeting was over, brushing my teeth and listening to my brain chatter on about all of the things on La Lista Ecuador Grande. I spit, rinsed my mouth, looked in the mirror. I quieted the chatter. And in the momentary calm, I was reminded that it actually doesn’t matter what shoes I pack, whether I answer every question perfectly, whether I have exactly what I desire for every possible personal or professional contingency. It doesn’t matter whether I know All The Things. What does matter, what counts, is that we will be there and they will be there and we’ll all work together in the spirit of walking away from the experience a little better for having been a part of it.
So, the report at the 81 day mark is that yes, there is most certainly the anxious counting down of days. But in the name of balance, there is also the equally important counting up of what counts.
Tick tock, tick tock.
This post is part of our series documenting our forthcoming international service trip to Baños, Ecuador. You can read our other entries here, and be sure to check back often for future updates.