Location: Beijing, China

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. It’s hard to believe that this trip is at its end. Today went by way too quickly as we said goodbye to the babies and toddlers at the Little Flower baby home and played with the group home kids for the final time. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in our group is different. From the first moment, we could tell that we were different. We have different genders, skin colors, personalities, emotions, perspectives. Differences are blatant; they’re easy to find and even easier to exploit. Back home, our differences tend to define us. It wasn’t our differences, however obvious, that brought us together as a group this week, but our similarities. In a place none of us had ever been, we were similar in our lack of knowledge about China. We were similar in our fears of squat toilets and parasites. We were similar in our inability to communicate like we would like to in a language we barely speak. We were similar in our purpose for coming. We were similar in how every one of us came here to make a difference in the lives of these children. And in an interesting turn of events, we were most similar in how we were different from the people we interacted with every day. Culture shock doesn’t begin to describe the feeling you get when someone has a multitude of polar opposite customs and beliefs. Add to that our task of having to interact and become friends with them, and it can seem daunting. I can’t think of a group of young people better suited to support each other as we face these difficult and rewarding jobs. The quote that I began the blog with is one that we hear so often. I think we’re all smiling because of the past few weeks. But if Lifeworks has taught me anything, it’s this: the past three weeks have been an exceptional experience, but what we’ve gained is more than just a memory. This is more than experience because the experience is final and fleeting, and this is anything but that. We leave tomorrow, and some might call it an end, but I call it the end of the beginning. Maybe the kids we met took some inspiration from us, but far more likely we were inspired by them. What begins for each of us as a result of that inspiration is completely up to us, but the fact that we take something away from this trip means that nothing has ended at all. A far more accurate quote would sound something like: Don’t cry because it’s over, because it’s not over.