Faith in who you are most uniquely, most naturally. Faith in who you are becoming. Faith that the universal ever flowing energy, whatever we may call it, can not help but conspire to bring us closer to who we are most authentically, through deep driving desires, serendipity, and hard lessons as well.
Sometimes that faith is so blind…. January of 2005, just after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit South East Asia– I Remember sitting in front of the TV just thinking, “God, some one’s got to do something!” Then came the phone call, “ Nia, we formed a small relief organization. We leave for Indo in a few days…”
Suddenly there I was with a handful of surfers chartering our own 75 foot very leaky wooden panisi. We loaded it to the gunnels with dried fish, water, goats and chickens, dug out canoes and fishing kits, well digging kits, school and medical supplies, and set off for the outer most islands off the west coast of Sumatra in an attempt to deliver these goods to the villages hardest hit by that horrible 9.6 earthquake and tsunami.
What was I doing??? Here I was this 43 year old actress singer dancer celebrity single mother of two out on the Indian ocean for a month. What did I have to offer? I have no medical background, I am not a teacher. I only speak English. I can’t build houses. I don’t even know how to fish. There was absolutely nothing I could name that would be of any benefit at all. You can imagine my trepidation.
When we arrived at the villages. The destruction was indescribable. The water had completely wiped out villages a mile inland. Coral reef once under water was now lifted above sea level for 200 yards. Boats on trees, trees on boats. These people had lost everything.
We handed out the goats and chickens, as viable breading stock. We gave them dugout canoes with paddles and fishing kits so they could start fishing and feeding themselves again. We set up medical clinics that went well into the night. We set up schools. And delivered dried fish and rice and well digging kits.
We did everything we could to get them back up on their feet. But something was odd. They seemed less concerned about it all than I. Here I was giving everything I had to the best of my ability yet, in all the chaos I seemed to be surrounded by a perplexing calm. The thing that struck me most profoundly about these people was how happy they were. How in the face of all that destruction, they clung to their happiness, or rather, their happiness clung to them. And in the midst of that, I just seemed…desperate. They stood outside their lean to shacks, shuffling about barefooted and toothless but firm in who they are.
Even a tsunami of that magnitude could not knock them from their knowingness. It was then that I realized I needed them as much if not more than they needed me. I mean lets face it, for 25 years I’ve been working in an industry where more value is placed on my celebrity status than on my honesty. And lending my face considered more useful than my willingness to lend a hand. It’s disconcerting to think that after all the effort I put into trying to be a person of great strength and integrity, my usefulness can simply be determined by my “heat;” that word used to describe the state of one’s sometimes inexplicable momentum. Knocked from my knowingness? Just a bit…. For them, everything changed in an instant and yet nothing had.
For the rest of us, life has a way of bending us into shapes we no longer recognize, one small, seemingly uneventful moment at a time. Like the ticking of a clock that lulls us into a feeling of constancy. How imperceptibly the time passes. Could it be that we are born with an innate and simple understanding of who we are and what we are made of and made for? Do we enter this life with the knowledge of our deepest driving desires and then just…forget?
I may not have had much to offer in terms of obvious and applicable skills but I learned some very valuable things about myself. I learned that I can pull anchor and sleep on bags of rice, that I can live at sea for weeks at a time with no bread or meat and only a cup of water to bathe in. I learned that I am patient and kind and strong as an ox. That I have great organizational skills and a temper that flares at conceit and selfishness and lack of loyalty. I learned that I can communicate without words and inspire people with nothing more than my spirit.
On the scale of how I impacted the world, my efforts were just a drop in a sea of tears. But on a scale of how my efforts impacted my own life? Immeasurable.
I don’t ever want to be afraid of getting in the game. I may not know the rules or the technique or have any of the skills that seem a prerequisite but I know through experience that bit by bit, effort by effort a bigger, more powerful, more whole Nia will be revealed and revealed it must be for that is a gift that can not be given…
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