We are part of the whole, which we call the universe, but its all an optical delusion of our mind that we think we are separate. This separateness is like a prison for us all. Our job is to widen the circle of our compassion until we feel connected to all people and situations. ~ Albert Einstein
Costa Rica offers lush natural beauty, a host of exotic jungle animals, and some of the friendliest people on the planet! So, as one might imagine, it is easy to feel akin to a group of 16 intelligent, beautiful, and irresistibly vibrant young women. So, I was not surprised upon my arrival to work with Chicas para el exito; to be drawn in instantly by the character and the charisma of these girls. I’ve only been here for a month but, days are so full at times, it feels as though I’ve spent more than one lifetime here in this quiet town next to the ocean in Puerto Viejo. I am learning so much from spending time with these young ladies inside and outside the classroom. As with much of life, at times the most impactful lessons are born out of discomfort and challenge.
The girls of Chicas para el Exito have just started to all ride their bikes to school on a daily basis. In fact last week was our fist time doing so for 3 consecutive days. When we walk from Hone Creek ( the town where about half the students live) the journey takes about 45 minutes each; but bicycles cut the ride time in half. Generous friends of Peace Through Yoga donated these bikes on more than one occasion. This week the girls were all particularly excited to be on the bikes, especially some of our group’s youngest participants who are just beginning to ride on their own.
Our commute home from school was almost over when Dariana, our group’s youngest participant suddenly fell off her bike like a tree crashing in the woods. There was no implicit reason behind the fall other than the rocky road and her inexperience. The group all came squealing to a halt as poor Dariana burst into tears. Just as the floodgates opened up, so did the sky, and one of the famous biblical Talamanca downpours commenced. I sent the other girls on ahead and stood in the street with Dariana and her cousin formulating our plan of action. I grabbed the bandana off my backpack and tied it around her leg to stop the bleeding as she bravely agreed to keep walking. There were times in our march we had to stop because it was raining so hard we could not see where we were going. We finally reached the house of Emilia, one of the managers of El Yue, and a long time friend of our program. Emilia and her family were just sitting down to dinner and immediately pushed it aside and leapt to our aid.
The compassion and genuine concern Emilia and her family showed drying Dariana off, getting her a fresh bandage and driving her back to her mother’s house were touching. As was the neighbor, who agreed to drive us all to the clinic when it was apparent that the cut was deep. Sadly, Dariana’s first fall off of her bike occurred at the same time as a cataclysmic downpour, and resulted in stitches.
However, the next day, she proudly showed me the stitches with a smile on her face and thanked me for bringing her bike back. I never imagined an ill fated Friday afternoon would bring me closer to several students, neighbors, and families but it has. I now talk more easily with all of these people when we pass in the street as the common threads of love, concern, and experience now weave us all together.
Unimagined bridges are all around us, hidden in the moment, and crossed each time we are fully present for the experience of our lives; both those of ease and those of challenge.
To learn more about Meghan Stepanowski, visit