“The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat.”

The recent Olympics put that truth on display!  After a lifetime of rigor and pain, a moment in the spotlight.  Ecstatic winners jump in victory.  Defeated challengers hang their heads.  

The dreamers strengthened by Dreams InDeed share a similar spirit.  They bet their lives on trophies of victory yet to be grasped.  Unseen realities spur them on.  The prize pursued by one visionary is “to gather the entire family of Lebanon together, a treasure for humanity, by serving with and for the Other.”  

But that Lebanese family has been torn apart by decades of civil war, retaliatory car bombs, and targeted assassinations.  Gathered together?  A treasure for humanity?   

His network of volunteers, Joy of Giving, strive to defuse the tinderbox that is Lebanon.  In one inner-city enclave, warring factions face off across a single street lined by bullet-riddled walls and burned-out homes.

It’s the ideal site for Joy of Giving to put their fraternal dream to the test.  

Lebanese youth from across sectarian lines volunteer together to rebuild homes and schools wracked by spasms of violence.  They host summer camps for kids from all backgrounds.  They uncompromisingly practice their core values: love, forgiveness, and respect.  

So that’s exactly what these volunteers did in this “no man’s land”.  They renovated the high-rise apartment blocks.  They planted a playground on the dividing line, drawing children out of hiding places.  Then they welcomed kids from all sides into an integrated children’s camp.

We saw in their practice of love, forgiveness, and respect the reflection of our values of passion, humility, and wisdom, as modeled by Jesus Christ with no trace of religious discrimination.  Those values practiced in hard places bring hope back to life.  

But conflict broke out yet again.  Families devastated.  Homes shot up.  Lives lost.  

Was their labor in vain?  To find out, we asked children from both sides of the no man’s land.  We’ve left out their names for their protection.  [A], [B], and [C] are youth from opposing sides of the no man’s land who attended Joy of Giving summer camps together.  [A] is from one side; [B] and [C] from the other.  

On what difference the Joy of Giving dream makes….

“The main aim of Joy of Giving is to bring all the children joy despite the war and all the violence.  This means a lot to me: wiping out the impact of war, destruction, ugliness….transforming faces into joy and love.” [A]

“The vision of Joy of Giving is to reconcile opposing sides.  Joy of Giving is the only one that can make the two sides talk to each other. This means a lot to me. You know my friend who was killed?  All our guys are dying like this.” [B]

On discovering what they share with “the other”….

“For me, the sense of humanity is what is important. There is no difference with anyone.  Joy of Giving created this in me.  Everyone in society is the same.” [A]

“I don’t think those from the other side are different than me. We are all the same.” [C]

On the dawning of new awarenesses….

“I felt that after the camp, they changed a lot. They didn’t have hatred for my side. There was a new positive feeling, an intimacy.” [A]

 “I always wondered why we are in this situation. When I look at it now, I ask myself if all this war is because of them or because of us.” [C]

Each of these quiet victories are strides in a lifelong marathon of transformation.  And such hope is contagious.  Iraqi and Egyptian youth have asked Joy of Giving to help them live out love, forgiveness, and respect in their hurting, fractured countries.  

Joy of Giving began this race 29 years ago.  Now they’re hitting their stride.  And Dreams InDeed is running alongside to encourage them to finish strong.  

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