Last week I returned from spending a week in Argentina with a team from TOMS Shoes, AT&T, and Gowalla. My biggest fear before the trip was not yellow fever or being separated from my iPhone for 5 days, but that I wouldn't have the words to describe the trip when I returned. That fear has been realized.
For the past week, as I have talked with family and friends about the trip, I have resorted to words like "amazing," "awesome," and "incredible" to capture the sentiments of my memories and in place of the ability to truly convey the life changing experience that took place. It is a strange place for me to be; without words. It is a humbling place to be, to know that I experienced something that, naively, I had hoped I'd be able to capture in 140 characters or a succinct summary for a blog post. And it is a refreshing feeling to know that the story we began in Argentina has only really just begun.
I wish I had the words to describe what it is like the first time you get down on your hands and knees in front of a little eight year old girl named Clarissa and take off her hand-me-down hole-filled shoes and place a brand new pair of TOMS on her feet. I wish there were words for her smile as she admired her new shoes for the next hour knowing the they were hers for forever and that they were beautiful.
I wish I could show the highlight reel from a soccer game that I organized with 20 boys and a new soccer ball. I would love to show the pride that I felt when I, in completely broken Spanish, and with the help of a great kid named Andoline, convinced them to all line up, shoulder to shoulder, from "Grande" to "Pequeno," and then split them into two teams, "Unos" and "Doses." The pure raw talent that came out on the field, the joy that something as simple as a new soccer ball brought, the images of all these boys running faster because of new shoes on their feet: how can I show that?
I wish I had the words to capture the pride in Juan Carlos Sr's eyes as I placed a brand new pair of TOMS on 5 year old Juan Carlos Jr's feet. I wish I could capture the pure joy on Juan Carlos Jr's feet as he took his first steps EVER with shoes on. There aren't words for that kind of joy or the feeling I had when he started to run like he'd probably never run before, feet protected from the rough earth below.
As I fight for to recount the images, stories, and people who impacted me in Argentina, I am fighting even more with the responsibility to live up to the knowledge that I now carry with me. The knowledge that one simple idea can change the world... That one passionate attempt to help 250 kids 4 years ago has led to an adventure that has now helped over a million... To see firsthand a model of sustainable giving in action and have my hypothesis on business as force of change validated... To know that the bar for potential impact on this world has been set that much higher...
Those are the words that I am fighting to find. And it is the fight that I look forward to fighting.
(photo credits: Josh Williams)