What soap, smiles, and gratitude have in common.

standard July 17, 2012 2 responses

The impeccably dressed, incredibly thin man danced his way up the stage stairs. Even from where I sat, I could see that his eyes gleamed with joy and humor. In a room filled with women, he stood out – not like a sore thumb, but, rather, like a beacon.

Derreck Kayongo founder of the Global Soap Project.

 All eyes were riveted.

His melodious voice picked up the dance where his feet had left off; the unfamiliar accent full of warmth and light.

“I was born in Uganda…” Derreck Kayongo started, speaking softly to the captive audience. He shared the tale of how his happy young childhood came to a brutal, tragic end and how he, all too early, was forced into a terrifyingly unimaginable adulthood.

As the audience listened with shock twisting their faces and tears pooling in their eyes, he told gentle jokes and lightened the mood.

Again and again he shared horrors followed by smiles.

His story, the one behind the Global Soap Project, was riveting and inspiring, but what kept me captive was his face.

This man who has seen more horrors and hardships in his lifetime than any of us could possibly imagine had a beautiful, trusting face with huge eyes that betrayed none of that horror, just endless joy and delight in all the wonders the world had to offer. He looked like a child taking delight in the littlest thing he discovered.

I watched him closely as he shared his discovery that 800 million bars of barely used hotel soap are discarded every year in the United States and again as he shared the rather simple, yet brilliant solution that he dreamed up to fix this situation. His passion and excitement were infectious. His animated face was mesmerizing.

This man, who by all respects should have been allowed to be full of hate and bitterness, was literally oozing with delight and hope.

With pride, at the end of his talk. Derreck held up a beautiful, fragrant bar of recycled soap that his organization was sending to Africa.

Soap. Such a simple thing. Every day we grab a bar of it in our shower. We bought it in a store, picked out our favorite fragrance from the bunch available, giving it barely any thought. We don’t stop to marvel at the lather the soap creates, the smell it leaves on our skin, the ease with which it rinses off dirt and germs, leaving us healthy and clean.

To children in Africa that soap means life. To us it means virtually nothing.

Derreck stood in front of a large group of women and, with a twinkle in his eye and a burble of laughter in his throat, reminded us that there is wonder in every little thing we take for granted. He also reminded us that sometimes the solutions for fixing the world lie in the most unexpected of places.

Having heard him speak and share his story, I’m not just moved to go visit every hotel in my vicinity to beg them to research how they can help the Global Soap Project, I’m also moved to try to keep seeing the world through eyes like his. I want to make a point to appreciate all the little things that are so easy to dismiss or take for granted so I too can work to keep the world around us perfectly magical.

Want to help Global Soap? Check out what you can do here!

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