breathe in..and breathe out

It is no surprise that the word inspire is derived from the Latin word ‘inspirare’ which means to breathe in.

The past month our focus has been on getting the job done.? Due to issues outside ours and our client’s control, a large-scale project had to be put on hold for a month. This meant that for the final month before going live all hands were on deck and with it, some serious hours of input. On top of that came a 22 hour long journey and a week of on-site 24/7 style hours.

After finishing the conference for Family for Every Child in Guatemala and before heading home I took a day to myself to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal. The idea was to breathe, to relax, to take a day to take in some of the wonders of Guatemala before returning to more ‘getting the job done’.  I expected to be inspired by the size, history and by the unfathomable engineering feat of it. What I didn’t expect was to be inspired by the people who I visited it with.

On the plane I sat behind Nancy, a gently-spoken lady in her 70s with lots of grown-up grandchildren and a lilting Southern US drawl. It transpired that she wasn’t just that. She had trained as a nurse in the mid-60s and had been instrumental within the public health sector team in research and testing the first cases of AIDS (including Patient 0). Now retired and a volunteer she had visited Guatemala 19 times to visit remote villages to provide them with doctors, medical specialists and hospital equipment. She said the levels of sterilisation weren’t as high as in the US, but I expect without her and her team these villages would have lacked surgeons, let alone clean sheets.

On the bus I sat next to a young man who had spent his years at university taking an honours degree and 4 other subjects in his ‘spare time’. He now had a degree and a Masters under his belt and while he didn’t have a formal degree in the other 4 subjects he had gone to all lectures and completed all required assignments to clock up a degree’s worth of knowledge. He worked in sustainability within the coffee industry, fighting for local farmers’ rights, against supermarket monopolies and lobbying for governments to provide more efficient water management. He was trilingual, his family had been evicted from Somalia in the civil war (check) and he lived in Denmark but had dreams of coming to live in Guatemala of Africa to bring real change on the ground.

A gay couple, both wearing matching Whole Foods T shirts with the slogan ‘Rooted in Diversity’ got engaged at the top of the temple in front of fellow climbers from all around the world, many of them from generations and religions which frown on homosexuality. Jack, also in his 70s, and a US military Vietnam veteran had not only fought his way bravely to the top of the tallest temple, but congratulated them with a big ‘real man’ hug.

During the week I had spoken to heads of charities who all came together to plan for a brighter future for orphaned, sexually abused, abandoned and enslaved children. But it wasn’t until the last day, where I had stopped and breathed (1., 2., 3.) that I let in all that inspiration, like fresh air into my lungs.

If there is a disadvantage of modern-day living it is that we are all so busy getting the job done that there is little time, and indeed little room for inspiration. So let’s all stop and breathe because I know that we don’t need to be ‘on top of the world’ above the trees of the Guatemalan jungle to find inspiration.

It’s in the people around us.