As you probably know from prior Shorts articles, last January I traveled to Nicaragua with my pal Carron Suddreth of Wilkes Senior Village and three activities directors we picked from a statewide competition. We put together the first-ever activities program for impoverished elders in Nicaragua. I remember thinking that if we actually pulled this off, we might change a few lives — the lives of the competition winners for sure and, if God smiled on us, maybe the lives of the Nicaraguan elders. As I reflect on that trip now, over a year later, I realize that the lives we changed were those I predicted, and one life I did not foresee changing — mine.
I’ve just learned that these three amazing women, Erica Johnson of Liberty Healthcare, Brenda Zimmerman of Lutheran Services for Aging and Jamie Phillips of Avante of Wilkesboro, have been named recipients of the JFR Foundation Life Enrichment Activity Program Award for their work in five Nicaraguan cities last year.
I have so many memories of that trip — 10 days of long road trips in a small van with those ladies. Brenda talking incessantly about whatever came to her mind while she planned her next craft event. Jamie and Erica posing as Hollywood gals with big sunglasses and scarves flying in the dusty Nicaraguan heat. Carron keeping us all “on task.” And our foundation CEO, Keren Wilson, wondering what the heck she got herself into. I also remember the joy on the faces of the Nicaraguan elders and volunteers as our ladies taught them how to paint little wooden boxes and add jewels, how to use exercise bands or dance the Hokey Pokey, and a thousand other things they did.
After our trip was over, Jamie Phillips put together an awesome DVD of our trip. For background music she chose ” The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. It’s a powerful song about determination and heart and hope. We needed all those strengths for this difficult journey. Somehow Jamie managed to match every note and lyric of that song with the perfect picture of us working with the elders. Today, as I wrote this article, I played the song for the first time in many months. I must confess, my heart overflowed. My eyes were full of happy tears. I remembered every second of our amazing trip, and I was so proud of these women for winning this national award.
More than that, I was reminded by Miley Cyrus’s words and the sacrifices of these three women, of what makes a good life:

I can almost see it
That dream I’m dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
You’ll never reach it
Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking
But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high
There’s always gonna be another mountain
Always gonna wanna to make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

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