Do you remember the scene in the old version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas where the Grinch’s poor dog Max pulls a sleigh full of toys from Whoville to the top of Mt. Crumpet … to dump it?
It’s the climax of the story, and as the sleigh hangs impossibly over the edge, slipping bit by bit, the Whos begin to sing their strange and winsome Christmas song. This music transforms the Grinch as he realizes that Christmas is not just about the gifts, but “a little bit more.”
In fact, the Grinch’s heart is changed. Geisel writes that “the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.” At this point in the animated story, a little x-ray screen appears over the Grinch’s heart, and we see the heart expand until it pops the frame of the x-ray screen apart. The Grinch is imbued with superhuman strength, and picks up the sleigh, turns it around, and rushes back down the mountain to deliver the stolen toys to their owners.
This is what happens to me every time I travel to other countries to share my story and message of purity and the Five Doors of the Heart, to drop off children’s books or do parent conferences or attend rite-of-passage ceremonies.
Entering another culture is a great privilege. As the Grinch found out, it’s transformative. When he tried to force the Whos to operate his way, he was a mean one. But the Whos helped him see something important very differently.
Our last week was spent with the Herrera family (above) in Jinotepe and Granada, Nicaragua. The Herreras are like family to me after three visits and being offered hospitality in their home. I have learned more about what a healthy family looks like from them than any other family I know.
I’ve also been able to encourage them and help with connections to strengthen their wonderful efforts to care for the hungry and care for glue addicts and others without purpose in a country most people don’t even know exists.
This week we are in Managua with girls rescued from garbage dumps at Villa Esperanza, and then we drive to El Salvador’s capitol to attend a rite-of-passage ceremony with 50 girls there. Their church put on a play of The Princess and the Kiss and had a crowd of 800 attend (they expected 200). Then the church leaders decided to pursue doing the Life Lessons follow-up to the children’s story with the girls.
It will be my great honor to attend this event and to speak to the youth and church in San Salvador. My heart will grow another size.
There is no doubt that there is plenty to do at home when it comes to helping people. Unfortunately, America doesn’t have all the answers. Sometimes the greatest wisdom and even help for getting a message across in the States comes from getting OUT of the States for awhile and opening our hearts.
That’s why I keep answering the call to international work. No matter where the good is done, it makes a difference, as we share our own strange, sweet songs that echo across culture. These notes of service and connection strengthen me and my friends in other countries to lift the heavy load of the work we do “at home.”
My heart still has room for lots of sizes. I’m looking forward to snapping the frame of the x-ray screen in San Salvador—again. If your frame has never been broken, I’d strongly suggest the same for you. Getting outside your box may put you in a place you never dreamed of, as you carry burdens you thought you could not, and feel the wind in your hair as you rush down the mountainside, bearing gifts.