San Luis Obispo, California, is credited as the happiest city in America. But for local Cali Edmunds, there are a happier people, just under a 6 hour flight away– the Nicaraguans. On her recent humanitarian trip there with Color My World, she shares that, “the most rewarding part [of the whole trip] was seeing how happy the people were. Regardless of how little they had, they were so happy, and they still are”.
Cali raised funds and went to Nicaragua two summers in a row to be around these happy people and to serve them. Many volunteers, Cali included, agree that serving in these third world countries not only blesses the lives of the locals, but betters the lives of the volunteers just as much, if not more.
Telling us of her initial interest on this journey, she admits that, “originally, I liked that it was a surf camp sort of trip. I really like the ocean, and I really like surfing, so I liked that aspect of it. But I also loved how focused this specific trip was on service compared to my other options.”
Despite her original reason to go, Cali came out with so much more than she anticipated. She later added, “what I didn’t expect was how much of an impact [this trip] was going to have on me. I knew that I was going to help people, and I was going to serve, but I didn’t realize how much I would be gaining… I gained a fresh new perspective of the world and a new perspective of my own life. I became more grateful. I became more humble, and just more aware of the world in general. Now, I step outside myself a lot more often than I did before.”
A simple week or two among a different culture and people provided her such a lasting and memorable change inside. This was not her expectation, nor one she felt fully equipped for.
An experience Cali shared in which her weaknesses brought about a prominent change in her was with a young girl named Sophia. Through Sophia, Cali learned that “love has no language barriers”. Cali speaks very little Spanish but teaches us that that was not important. She recounts, “Sophia and I spent an entire day together–swinging and playing and [Sophia] spoke nothing but Spanish. We did not communicate much at all; I didn’t know what she was trying to say to me, but we still had the best day. I was able to communicate with her on a deeper level, a level that wasn’t speaking.”
In conjunction with the happiness and love Cali felt and experienced, she closes with the final thought to get out and serve! She encourages us all to make a change in the world. And when asked about her advice and preparation for a service trip like hers, she counsels, “go with an open mind and an open heart. Be open to both giving love, and receiving love.”
Let us all be inspired by these words– to find time and a place in our hearts to look outside our own selves– to find the meaningful life service renders and to color the world with love.