Villa Esperanza

Villa Esperanza

About Me - trying to live a life that is as full as it can possibly be - loving God & loving others

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Friday, 30 December 2016

Time to Reflect

Shockingly (or not, if you follow my blog...) it has been well over a year since I wrote anything. OOPS and SORRY.
I tried to write a post a while ago, but the pressure to come up with something inspiring was a little too great. Thats the trouble of leaving it so long....

It's the time of year where people have meaningful conversations, full of reflections of the year passing by and dreams for the one to come. I'm in the Dominican, sitting in the breeze on the porch, surrounded by trees, birds and mosquitoes. It's strange to have Christmas and new year in a warm country, when you come from England - anything but warm!

My reflections on the year gone by are mostly positive ones. 2016 has been a good year for me and the work I get to do out here. Here are some of my highlights...

The clinic in Esperanza was reopened in April - earlier in the year I partnered with Go MAD ministries (Go Make A Difference), a ministry run by some good friends of mine here. Working together meant we could open the clinic, and so we now get to have Dr Katz and Anairis the nurse come to the village every week. We treat around 25 patients each Friday, seeing everyone from newborn babies to senior citizens. It really excites me to be able to help provide medical care to those in need of it.

Since the start of the new school year in August we have been sending a whole bus of students to the near by secondary school! The number of students graduating from Grade 8 in the village school has meant that we now have too many to go on motorbike taxis. Seeing whole year groups of students going to secondary school is fantastic. Most of the families in Esperanza could not afford the daily transport cost to enable their children to continue in education, and this is one program that I am really passionate about. I always took my education for granted, and didnt even like going to school sometimes. Education is so very important though, in fighting poverty and exploitation. In creating future opportunities and being eligible for employment.

The summer Mission Direct teams worked really hard, digging a water line to enable us to provide clean water to a very remote community called Severet. This village has around 100 families, and without clean water their health and well being was being jeopardized. The teams did well, and it was fantastic to be able to celebrate the completion of the water line with a big community celebration day - we even hired a bouncy castle!

Another highlight for me was serving on my church leadership team and seeing our community outreach program start to develop. It's an interesting location to be reaching out in - many of the english speakers here are not people I have a whole lot in common with. That doesnt mean they dont need Jesus though, and so being creative in ways of getting to know more people has been fun and rewarding. MOst weeks a small team of us take part in a charty trivia quiz, making new friends and realising how little we know about trivia...

The big challenge since the summer has been funding for the Esperanza village school - the main source of funding was ending this month, and it wasn't looking too promising. I was wondering how God was going to move, whether the school would have to close, or just how on earth it would be possible to find the extra $3000 per month that it would take to keep it open. I fully knew and trusted that God was seeing the situation, but also fully knew that just because I wanted th school to stay open, didnt mean it would. Massive answer to prayer came when the Dominican govenment agreed to pay the teachers salaries!! We dont know how long for, it could be for a month or it could be for 30 years, no clue! But it is super encouraging to see that the children can continue to learn - education is so vital in enabling them to change their own futures.

Not everything has been great and exciting - that wouldn't be real life would it! But it is really encouraging to stop and look back, to think about how the year has been and how a difference has been made and is being made.

I am so thankful to God for allowing me to be a part of this big jigsaw puzzle and to play this role. I am also incredibly thankful and humbled to think of all my friends, family and churches that give their hard earned money to keep me out here, and running all the programs that we have going on now. It is staggering to think that Im approaching the 7th anniversary of moving here - I really had no idea I would be here for longer than 8 months. I would never have got on the plane - honestly, I woudlnt. But i am so glad I did.

I read a diary entry this morning, that i wrote last year. It said 'if you stop walking, you dont see the miracle'
Its true. There have been many, many occasions over the last 7 years when I faced a situation that seemed bigger than me. That's because most situations seem bigger than me... Im not that brave really. But, in any of those situations I could have stopped, felt defeated and quit. I could easily have walked away from the situations. However, by pausing and remembering that I am NOT GOD and am just a little part of the bigger picture, by carrying on obediently to do my part, whatever little part that might be, I have seen time and time again that the mountain moves. The situation changes and somehow God works things out. Take the school funding for example. Im not into prosperity gospel, i certainly do not think that all funding i ever see a need for will drop into my lap - but time and time again i have seen a miracle of provision at exactly the right moment. The miracle and provision are often nothing to do with finance at all. If i'd quit, the miracle would not haev been able to happen - or I would have not been there to experience it!
Miracles aren't restricted to developing world situations either - a popular question put to me when I go back to England is 'What miracles have you seen this year?' Sometimes, the miracle is small, sometimes you dont think to call it a miracle and it's less obvious. I think a reconciled relationship is a miracle. When you choose to humbly live the way Jesus shows us, and when you are in disagreement with someone to work it out, to persevere for the purpose of reconciliation - thats a miracle too. If you are in one of those situations right now, then take heart and Keep walking so you get to see the miracle. Dont give up ;) God sees you. -Im also in no way trying to say I have this sorted in my life, just this is what Im trying to do in my own relationships and life, so as it;s my blog, i thought i would share it!

What Next?

I have learnt that having dreams and goals here is good. I have also learnt that situations change and needs change quickly. I am therefore nervous to give you a list of my goals for the next year....
however, the situation that i am pestering God about is the Nazareth House rebuild - a dream now for so long, and progress is being made at last, but I am impatient....
Also the continuation of all of the Esperanza projects and programs - school transport, healthcare, education in general.

So, there we go. Thats my New Years Eve Eve reflection for you all. More of an update than anything else, but maybe it will get me blogging again.... vamos a ver.

I hope that all of you have time to stop and reflect back on the year gone - on how you have grown as a person, how God has shaped you and walked with you. None of us knows the future, but one thing I can guarantee you for the year to come is that God is right there with you. Dont forget it. He is real and He is there. He sees you. He knows you. He loves you.

Happy 2017 😊 Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Updates and a dream

So, following on from February's that was a while ago... I can concur that I am still not God! However, the year has continued to be a crazy one, with more twists and turns in the legal documentation process (Dominican process to legalise all foreigners living in the DR, including Haitians...those not registered face deportation) than I ever though possible. Despite a lot of difficulties, pretty much everyone has documentation that allows them either more time for Haiti to issue the ID documents needed to complete the Dominican process, or a 2 year visa. SO, THAT'S FANTASTIC

During the year I learnt the meaning of perseverance, determination, hope and action.
It was really, really hard. But it is done. I am so thankful to God for allowing me to be here at this amazing time in Dominican history, and to everyone that gave their cash to make it possible to help so many people. By the end, there were people from 4 communities coming to me for help, and the pot never ran dry, I didn't have to turn anyone away due to lack of funds, and that is a real miracle.

The summer teams are going well, last one is nearly finished. The documentation finished after the second team arrived, so I'm excited to have a proper break next week and not have to be preparing for anything or thinking about anything! Its a bit like when the final exams finish at university and all of a sudden you have free time again, and can have a social life and hobbies! I am excited! IT has been a long time since I had a real break.

Summer teams have been going well. We have had team members aged 11-75 this summer, all kinds of different people, with different backgrounds and passions! Team members come for 2 weeks to serve the poor and help meet physical needs of others, sharing the love of God as they do so. We have sponsored and helped build 11 homes for families living in shacks, giving them a proper brick home with non leaking roof, toilet and running water. Temperatures have reached 48 degrees (with the humidity index) so its been very sweaty work!

The teams also provided the funds to keep the children's feeding program running throughout the summer in Ascencion Village. The children and elderly receive 3 hot meals a week at the feeding program - during school holidays this program feeds around 400 children, so without the mission teams there would have been some even hungrier tummies.
We also take teams to Christ Transforms Drug and Alcohol rehab centre, where team members are invited to share testimonies and encouragements with the men as they fight to break their addictions. Many team members also contribute to the finances of this centre, which receives no government funding. Teams make a real difference here. If you are interested in coming on a mission team next summer, then check out

The BIG DREAM that I have for the next year though has to be Nazareth House. Nazareth House is a home where Sister Mercedes lives with her 15 children. Each of her children has a different disability. They are a family. The children don't leave when they reach 18, it is their family. For LIFE. Sister Mercedes has been living this way for 13 years, relying on God to provide for all of her needs. She rents a home, which has been up for sale for nearly 2 years. If it sells, they have no where to go. They need our help, and I have been pushing doors as hard as I can for the last year, trying to help be a part of the answer to the problem. Things are moving so slowly, but at least they are starting to move! Please join us in praying for a solution to the housing problem, as soon as I have some proper news I will blog about it and let you all know. Watch this space....!!

So, that's a little update from me...
Please be praying for Nazareth House and a solution to come soon!!
Thanks ;)

Friday, 27 February 2015

Maybe I did learn something at bible college!!

It's been a while since I wrote a post- some of you have noticed that, and others - shame on you- have not! How have you survived so long without an update from me?!! It must have been hard for you. Im sorry.

It seems like my trip to England was a very long time ago, I came back to the Dominican at the start of December and it has been a crazy, crazy non stop few months. I dont want to go into too much detail here, in the public domain, so any of you who dont know the drama that has been going on out here, please feel free to drop me an email at and, depending on who you are, I will give you a heads up!

Since December, I've learnt a lot.
I've learnt that the concept of Numerical Order is not as straight forward as I though... I was raised to believe that numerical order is an absolute truth...that it goes like this... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10...
However, I discovered that for many of my friends here in the village of Esperanza, numerical order goes like this... 1, 11, 111, 12, 122, 13, 133, 14, 144... basically, any number starting with a 1 is smaller than any number starting with a 2 etc. Interesting. Frustrating when you are desperately trying to keep your files in house number order... Interesting though. They are so sure that they are right that I have almost given in to their system...!

I've also learnt that Im not God. Now...I knew this before - obviously - but I got to the point of being almost overwhelmed by the stress of the current task - and the finance side of it, aswell as the organisational and administrative side. Everything was building up and becoming very stressful - I was finding it hard to get to sleep, I was working crazy long hours, constantly thinking about everything that needs doing. Then it came to me. Im not God. I can only do what I can do, with the finances and resources that God has provided, for the people that are committed to doing their part to get the task done.
Sorry this is all a bit cryptic. I hope you all know what Im on about...

A few years ago I spent some time at Bristol Baptist College, I did half a masters in youth and community work with applied theology. During that course, we spent a lot of time looking at theological reflection. Posh words for Stepping back and seeing how God is involved in our everyday experiences. As my stress levels increased in January, I realised that this couldnt carry on or I would get burnt out. So, I tried it - I stepped back and asked God where He was, what His roles were in solving the big problem we are facing, and then where I fit in. It helped so much.

Realising that I am not God, and therefore can not do everything for everyone, has been very liberating. It doesnt mean I am sitting at home with my feet up, Im still working hard and putting in everything I have to help the village - but without the stress. Everytime I start to feel a bit stressed, I recite the word Perspective. It helps.

So, I dont know what the outcome of all of this will be - I dont know what is going to happen in the next few months, but I do know that if Im faithful in doing my part with what God gives me, putting my all into the task and  helping those I can, then the rest isnt really up to me.

Its true for all of you too. I know some of you are parents and are worried about your children, your marriages, your careers, your retirement, your health, your friends and your family...any number of things. Life is scary sometimes, no matter who we are or what we do or how strong our faith is. But...I just want to encourage you, when you are feeling overwhelmed, there is a God who is right there too - try stopping for a while and just asking Him where HE is in the situations that you are facing. Where is He, what is His heart, what is it that you are meant to do and what are you meant to trust Him to do... perspective. you are not God. I am not God. But God is God.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Thursday Thoughts

This year has been so much fun - in fact, I would go so far as to say it has been Such Fun! (If you are a non UK reader, I apologise, that is a Miranda quote)

Im discovering that it is really only when I go and do my talks in England that I really stop and reflect over the year, trying to see what the most important/exciting things have been. What the hard parts have been. What I believe God has been doing in the DR. What message is there that I can share with all of those in the UK who have been faithfully supporting me and praying for me - partnering with me in this crazy Kingdom stuff that I get to do. a few of my thoughts...

                                                                  Chorlo and I in October 

Seeing God's provision through YOU, his people, has been amazing. Being able to help Chorlo with 2 brain surgeries - 2 BRAIN SURGERIES- is incredible. Being able to support 2 year groups of students as they go to high school - amazing- having dedicated people who give sacrificially from their hard earned paychecks, to help students they have never met to have a better future - inspiring and moving. Being able to help as many young people and children as possible for the naturalisation process - enabling them to have the rights to education and employment in the Dominican - life changing and overwhelming! I can't thank you all enough for everything that you have done to help me help them. ;) 

There have been some sad losses along the way too - in May a young man, Esquor, passed away. He had been sick with heart and circulation problems for a long time. Eventually he needed dialysis, and then he passed away. He was only 30 years old. He used to help the mission teams when we were building in his village, he managed to give me a scar on my arm through his exuberant helpfulness...he swung a metal frame into me by mistake! His story is one that saddens me - if he had lived in a developed country there would have been so many other options for his health care that the ones available to him. Im pleased to say that Isachar (a very gifted and wonderful Dominican man) and I did have opportunities to pray with Esquor and share God's love with him. He knew where he was going. 

As well as looking back though, I start to look forward and dream about what might take place in 2015. In the looking forward and dreaming, I am feeling slightly overwhelmed! I do know though that this time last year I would have felt overwhelmed at the things that have been accomplished over the past 12 months. I am always thankful that God does not reveal too much at a time! I often say that if I had known in 2009 when I went to the DR on  2 week mission trip that I would end up living there I would NEVER have gone for 2 weeks! Obviously, I am very glad that I did - but at the time it was certainly not what I had in mind for my future. 

One BIG thing for this year is Nazareth house children's home. This is the home that Sister Mercedes runs and lives in, for disabled children. For 12 years they have been living in the one house. The owner is now trying to sell the house, which means Sister Mercedes has nowhere to live - with her 18 disabled children. The house is being sold for 240000 pounds! Please join me in praying HARD as we try to work together to come up with a solution. At the moment am looking at land with a view to building a purpose built facility for her - which is pretty exciting! Nothing is certain yet, but this is something I am pursuing. Please pray that God would guide and provide for Sister Mercedes - through whichever means is best - and that if that  is involves me, which at the moment it seems too- that I will have faith and confidence in doing my part! 

The last thing I want to share....this is getting long...sorry...

This is Laurison. He is a lovely man. Laurison is very, very thin and very poor. Laurison is a member of the village church in Esperanza, and he dances away during every service like no one else! He is a fantastic man and I really enjoy seeing him in the village. 

One day I saw Laurison doing some gardening, and I took the photo above. The wall in the background is the side of the church.  I watched him for a few minutes and then went over to him and asked "What are you doing Laurison?' 
His response really hit me - he said 'My part.' 
Profound. Laurison, aged 12387 years old, was doing His Part for his community and for God. He cant do everything that needs doing, but he can do his part. 
How beautiful is that? 
This was possibly one of the most inspiring moments for me this year - strange, because it was so so so simple. If Laurison can do his part, whilst shaking with hunger, what can we all accomplish when we all do our part? 

I know a lot of you are doing your part, and Im not sharing this as a preach at anyone at all - Im sharing it because it inspired me so much to rise up and DO my part. 

We all have different gifts, abilities and skills. We all live in different parts of the world and have different needs presented to us on a daily basis - maybe for many of you those needs arent so much the physical, but the emotional needs of lonely neighbours, work colleagues and school mates. Maybe there is someone nearby who really could use a friend, maybe there is a patch of land that you can go and garden for the community? I have no idea what it is for you, I just know that this world is hurting and if we all do our part it hurts just a little bit less ;) 

Im back to the DR on Wednesday, having had 4 weeks in England to remind me what the COLD feels like. 

Much Love and appreciation to all of you, 


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Friends.....or Foes?

One of the saddest conversations I have ever had in my life took place today.

As I came in to the complex where I live, one of my older neighbours was kind of stuck on the steps. I asked him if he was ok, and then we began a very long conversation. It turns out that No, he is far from ok.

Without going into too many details, this older man is getting sick. He is from the US and is here alone. He has been here 7 years and the only friends he has are other older men, who sit on the beach drinking each day. Their conversation is almost exclusively focused on the Girls that they pay for sex and the Dates that they take them on. (Sosua is one of the top 5 sex tourism destinations in the world, although, thankfully, this is changing!)

My neighbour is no longer a welcome part of their group as he has no more stories to share, as he is too sick to go on Dates now. The  guys that he has been hanging around with for 7 years have dropped him and are not prepared to help him. They have told him that he is a burden and they are sick of him.

He doesnt have family.

He doesnt have church. He doesnt have God. He is literally alone. He cried several times during the conversation. I tried to help him problem solve some of the difficulties he is facing, and I will do what I can to help him. I dont think I have ever seen someone so desperate.

It has led me to think about relationships. What my friendships are based on, what I would be prepared to do for those around me, what would be too hard - for this guy, his friends seem far from being true friends. I know that there are 2 sides to every story, and I dont mean this in judgement of them - but if your social world is built on sin and damaging other people it is fairly unlikely that you will find big-hearted friends there. People who gather to discuss their conquests of women living in poverty are probably unlikely to be the selfless support that you might one day need.

I also find it terribly sad that for the last 7 years that is all that my neighbour has been focusing on. That in a country surrounded by poverty and people needing opportunities, that he hasnt ever gone beyond his own wants and desires and stepped out to help others. It is all just very sad.

I know I always say this, but Jesus told us that the important things in life were to love God and to love those around us. That if we learn to love others we will expereience His JOY. That is what so many people seem to be seeking after, happiness and acceptance and joy. Sadly for so many of us, we look in the wrong places. We think loneliness can be cured by sex, or alcohol or any number of things. We are created to love and to be in community with others and with God.

But its not all over for my neighbour. He needs help -  in almost every way imaginable. Physical, emotional and spiritual. I have no idea what the long term looks like for him. There are no elderly care homes here for him to go too.... and he refuses to go back to the States.

The decisions that we make, about how to spend our time, who to spend it with, and what we invest our lives, our minds and our money in - they are important decisions. Important for today and for eternity. It does matter. Take it seriously.

Living here is a funny old thing really. You spend your days working with Haitian and Dominican people, and you spend your evenings with people from Canada, the States, Europe.... its a mixed up little community of people! Im off to my church prayer meeting now - I will be praying for my neighbour, and for wisdom for him, compassion from his friends and for wisdom for those of us around him who are wanting to love him in the way God calls us too - but who -if IM honest- are also slightly nervous to get involved!

Sorry this isnt my usual chipper tale of wonders, but this is the reality of life too....

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

God knows the details!

I haven't written a blog post since the end of June! I knew it had been a while, but I had no idea it was that long!! There is a good reason though - I've been really busy!

Throughout the summer I get to host and facilitate the mission teams from the UK that come with Mission Direct. They come out for 2 weeks each, to build homes for the poor and undertake any other mission tasks that we have for them! The team members dont know each other before they get on the plane, and so it is always an interesting and exciting experience! Getting to know new people in a new culture and getting involved in new tasks - Such Fun as Miranda would say!

So this summer has been busy and fast and now its over! Im left with fond memories, new friends, a lot of laundry and some achy muscles! Im also left with a reminder that we are all different and we all have a story. Spending 2 weeks with people in a fairly intense, communal living, life sharing type of way is a good way to get to know people! Im often humbled by the stories of other peoples lives, and Im often challenged and encouraged by other peoples testimonies of what God has done in their lives. I've enjoyed seeing people stepping out of their comfort zones, daring to live, giving new things a try - even including seeing an older team member jump from the side into a swimming pool for the first time in her whole life!

There is one story that I really want to share with you all - the story of Chorlo. See my lst blog post for an introduction to Chorlo's story.

Chorlo had a shunt put into his brain in June this year. I had 2 weeks notice to raise the money for the private operation. I put a post on facebook and within  a few days I was totally blown away by the answers to prayer that came in! Generous and amazing people sent in money for a man they had never met, and I truly believe that it was a Miracle.
The surgery took place and Chorlo made a great recovery.

So for a few weeks I have been aware that I had received too much money for his surgery. People had been so amazingly kind, that almost twice the amount I needed came in. I had $8042us dollars. His operation cost $4096 dollars in the end. So, I had decided that this week - once the last team left - I would email everyone and explain the situation. I was planning on asking everyone if they would be ok with me holding the money here for the next medical emergency/ Honestly, I was about to send that email.

Last Sunday I got a call to say Chorlo was really, really sick. I agreed to cover his hospital bill so sent him to the private clinic again. He ended up needing surgery to remove his shunt because his abdomen and intestines had become barbed and 'stuck' together following a parasite. The catheter from the shunt was now contaminated and the whole thing had to be removed. He had surgery to Unstick his intestines and to remove the shunt. The surgery went well and he is back home already!

Guess how much that all came too?

Yup,. you are quite right. $3946 dollars. EXACTLY. And there would not of been time to fundraise for that, and that my friends is my BIG ENCOURAGEMENT! That God knew ahead of time the need, put it on peoples hearts to give, and then the details all came together so perfectly. Miracles do happen, if you open your eyes you will see them!

So, thank you all once again for giving - to those of you that were here and came to donate your blood too - another miracle. Chorlo needed 4 pints of blood when I had keen volunteers here, more than willing to donate their blood for another. I donated too, it is so amazing to know who your blood is going too - kinda freaky too though!

I love it when you get to see the details all coming together like this, dont you? I know Chorlo's story is unusual, and Im amazed at how it developed! Im reassured that God does see the details, He does provide. He uses us all to be a part of the story too - isnt that amazing.  'May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave  us ETERNAL ENCOURAGEMENT and good HOPE, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.' 2 Thess 2 v16-17.

Please keep Chorlo in your prayers, for continued recovery and that the hydrocephalus doesnt come back.

Thanks for reading, I wont leave it so long next time - promise!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The one right in front of you

Recently, out here in the Dominican I have been able to help 2 men with surgeries that they would otherwise could not of had.
The first gentleman, Willie, had a massive debilitating hernia. He was unable to work and unable to provide and care for himself. He came asking me for help. He came to me. I didn’t go looking for him.
Fortunately we have a great private clinic here in the town, and so I took him there for a consultation. The public hospital is poorly equipped and you have to go elsewhere to get your scans and tests all done. The doctors there do their best but with such limited funding, the public medical sector is in a terrible state.
So, Willie ended up at the private clinic with me, and we managed to get him his surgery done within a week and at a cost of two hundred and fifty seven pounds. Boom. Life changed.

Man 2, Chorlo, had a life threatening brain condition. He came to me, telling me about his dizziness and …long story short, we ended up getting a brain scan done at the private clinic. The results showed 15 parasites in his brain, as well as cysts and an excess of fluid in his skull. Without treatment and surgery he would die. Chorlo is a 39 year old father of 6. Sole provider for his family.
Chorlo's operation was going to cost a lot of money. Brain surgery does. So, Chorlo sat there in the hospital, telling me how God was going to provide and how he wasn’t worried…. I on the other hand was a wee bit stressed at the expense ahead of me. Hmm… where was my faith?!! So, God did provide, through many amazing people in several countries, within a week we had enough money and the surgery went ahead. Right now Chorlo is healing up nicely.

Why do I tell you these two stories? Because this week so many people have been telling me how great I am and how kind I am – where actually I’m not really. Yes, I helped these two men, and yes I clearly saw God provide for them and was honored and humbled to be a part of that. BUT it wasn’t me. I didn’t go looking for people to help medically, they both came to me. They were both there, right in front of me with a real, genuine need.
People often ask me how I decide who to help. I never know how to answer that because I really don’t feel that I do choose who to help. I pray for God to guide me and give me wisdom, and then I head out the door and see who I meet that day. Sometimes there is no one in any particular need, but even then we all need human compassion, kindness, love and acceptance.
So that is what I have been thinking about. How our responsibility to God and to humanity is to love the one put in front of us. That’s it. Who is my neighbor? The one right in front of you. That is who we have to love. The one right there, the one you maybe see all the time. Thats who God wants you to get involved with and love and be the hands and feet of Jesus too and with. The one right in front of you. It wont always be as dramatic and exciting (and scarey) as a brain surgery…but it will always be as exciting and important as a human being knowing that another human being cares about them.

Jesus made it all fairly simple really – love God and love your neighbor as yourself. He even told us why – John 15 – so that my joy may be complete in you!
Its so true, showing love, sharing love and having compassion on and for each other really does bring me joy. Jesus was telling the truth. If you don’t think so, I challenge you this week to put it to the test. Have love for those around you and see how you feel!!