We started the second leg of our Journey, New York – Texas with a clear plan. Travel from New York to Maryland and find stories in the states near the area we stay. I was really happy and optimistic because when we arrived in Hughesville, MD, we had a story that really inspired us, The Arnold House, which we wrote about previously.

 After we covered it, we were ready to continue. We took a day to visit Washington DC and while there, we encountered Rawle Phillips, of the “Stop the Violence Basketball Tournament”.

Rawle created the tournament for the residents and the people working in his neighborhood to get to know each other and stop the violence among each other. It was a good story, but we were unable to cover it fully at that time.

The weather had been intense since we followed Clarence of “The Arnold House” and the DC story was incomplete but my outlook was still positive and inspired. My nephew, his wife and my brother could not have been more welcoming and giving and they provided the perfect place for us to work. The plan was that after a few days, we would continue our journey to North Carolina where we had an apartment reserved for the following week.

Everything was going great and then the unexpected, Hurricane Florence appeared. Some would say, perfect, we were protected and Dolly was safe in a garage. Instead of being on the road, we were in the right place at the right time. My nephew, his wife and my brother let us know that they would feel better knowing that we would be safe if we stayed until the weather cleared.  While logical and sensible, however, for me this is the moment when my ego and my fear kicked in.

I have always felt that it is easy to give and feel good about it, but how difficult to accept being taken care of and to receive without paying back. Right now because of the project, we do not have the same financial freedom that a regular job or salary provides. Before, I was able to pay for all our needs, to invite people to eat or provide things in gratitude for their kindness towards us. Now, placed in the opposite position, it feels uncomfortable to accept help,to say yes, or even to say: Thank You, humbly.

When I came to the United States, 31 years ago, it was hard for me to see how this culture felt the need to repay for any favor or act of kindness towards them. I always had trouble understanding a persons need to “return the favor” or to pay back just because I felt like giving them something. I took it with such an offence. I could not understand how people were so “arrogant” (in my mind), why couldn’t they just say just thank you and be grateful.

Well, I guess I had to be put in the same situation for me to understand that it is not that simple.

I come from a big family so sharing was common and so natural. It is so satisfying to give, to feel that I can make a difference and brighten someone’s day. It was easy to give without question, you have it, so you give it. Often, it would not make a difference in my life. I either had more of that item or I could replace it.  Many times, I did not care to even replace it. It was kind of good to give it away because we had so much.

Now, receiving and being on the other side is another story and now I am learning to understand it. I am grateful, truly, but all this thinking comes into place. Am I imposing, am I taking their food, their privacy, their routine away. Are they going to see me and Jay in this situation and judge us, or pity us without understanding? My dear ego takes over. Anxiety and doubt present themselves with full force and I struggle within myself. I do not share this with Jay, because I don’t want him to doubt as well. He is doing his best to keep up with the work.

For some, our project is not that simple to understand, especially for people that are living their daily lives’ worrying about their own concerns. I can’t expect them to understand what we are doing. All these thoughts go through my mind.

Humbled, I surrender to the moment, accepting that fear is taking over and I stop. Because of the situation, I am forced to pause, to breathe and not think. I can’t do anything about it because the only option is to stay, wait and be grateful. The hurricane is taking its time to arrive and only then will we know what our next step is. Who knows, it may bring a greater plan for us, or perhaps I needed to learn by force how to receive with grace and be patient.

So after much reflection and waiting, I fully understand that this moment places me in a more profound state of mind. There are two things that I have begun to learn. The first is that I have been forced to pause and live in the moment, to enjoy the rain outside my window, the laugh of my little nephew, the conversation of my brother and the wonderful energy that this whole environment is providing.

The second is accepting that I cannot do it alone. People, in this case my family, are that force behind the scenes, there to hold me when I am failing, when I do not have a floor.

I put my ego in check and surrender to the moment. I stop to observe the trees standing strong, patiently, silently in the torment of the wind and the rain. I take strength from their stoicism. As the storm rages, inside, I feel warm and completely comfortable, I do not think; I am at peace with my hot cup of coffee. I smile thinking how grateful I am to be right here and now.

Written by Stella Kochiss of OnRway Productions

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