Meet Chris & Nicole - coming from a small town in the mountains in South Carolina (US) they are currently part of our volunteer team here in Tel Aviv. They have three kids ages 17, 21 and 23 and recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary!
Q . How did you get connected to kite.pride and Glowbalact?
…Nicole… I met Tabea through a common friend on Instagram and I felt prompted by God to go and check out her profile – and from one simple message our friendship started 😊 Later on, Tabea visited me for a conference in the US and a while after that Chris and I started to have the feeling that a huge change in our lives was on the rise. Talking to Tabea about it she suggested for us to come to Israel for a year to volunteer at the social business. We felt it was the right move for us. Our kids and extended family were very supportive of us in our decision, so we arranged things, packed bags and came.
Q . First thought when you met kite.pride and it’s team?
…Nicole… I felt a little nervous and slightly anxious but at the same time the love in the place was tangible. It felt a little like I wasn’t really needed as things were well taken care of as a good business should be.
…Chris… Being super honest - I felt like I wasn’t needed. It looked like everything was taken care of.
…Nicole… And that almost made us go home.
…Chris… I think the problem in the beginning was, that we didn’t know each other very well and so it took time until the kite.pride team knew what I am capable of, even though I’m technically disabled.
…Nicole… to find our place in the team took time and I think we now found our spot 😊
Q . So what parts of the daily kite.pride life are you guys involved in?
…Chris… I have responsibilities in several areas – I look after the kitchen, the upkeep of the facility, running errands for Sales and Marketing and the production team. I will not run out of work (chuckles) and it helps me to thrive, since I perform better when I know that there are things to be done.
…Nicole… for me it’s not so much a specific area, but more of a general support of the whole team – so my question in the morning is: what is the greatest need today and how can I help? I would describe myself as a “Utility Player”.
Q . Chris, you mentioned, that you are technically disabled - what happened?
…Chris… in 2010 I was working as a senior lineman for a power company. I was on a job and a powerline which was supposed to have no power on was live. I stepped on it and 14’000 volts went through my body. I was highly injured, so they flew me to a burn center. I was so burned you could see parts of my bones and they had to amputate my arm. I spent 8 weeks in the hospital and then after that I had 48 surgeries to correct different parts of my body. The next few years I was in and out the hospital – my and my family’s life was turned upside down.
…Nicole… Chris always says he looks good for a dead man, since that much voltage is usually fatal. God definitely had His hands on him and has been so faithful in this whole journey. There were so many instances in the hospital when doctors told us that he could be blind or that his organs will shut down eventually – none of what they anticipated happened.
The hardest thing was when I had to decide if they should amputate Chris’s arm or not. He was not conscious and the remains of the arm were poisoning him – I was so afraid of how he would react when he woke up and found out he had no arm and I allowed them to do it.
…Chris… Tough for me was, that for some time after the accident I was really not able to do anything. I was fully dependent on Nicole and the kids, not an easy thing for someone who is a doer and practical problem solver. I had to rediscover my identity after the accident, before I was Chris the lineman, but now I wasn’t - It took time and the support of others to work through that.
…Nicole… A big change for me was that suddenly I had to manage all aspects of a family life by myself. A lot of new things to learn -- the experience was like one of a tea bag, it’s not until you drop into hot water that you know what it’s made of -- the accident definitely forced me to know what I was made of.
Q . Now being here, do you feel that your traumatic experience helps you to connect with some of your employees who have been through though life experiences?
…Chris… it makes me more empathetic for people in general, I know what it means to have your life changed 180 degrees without having any say in it.
…Nicole… Empathy and no judgement. Empathy and understanding for what is going on in people’s minds and no judging of people – there is nothing someone could tell me, that will shock me or change the way I think about them. You just have to love people and let them be who they are.
Q . What is something you have learned while being here?
…Chris & Nicole… We have found family here. You feel cared for, celebrated instead of tolerated, and you feel like you are important to them. It feels like we have more brothers and sisters here than we ever had anywhere else. You have a place in their lives and you will always have it. It’s a very odd feeling that we never experienced outside our own immediate family.
Q . What did you least expect here in Israel? What challenged you the most in your thinking since coming here?
…Chris… To begin with, the big city aspect. We both grew up in a rural setting and having to negotiate public transportation and not having a car was challenging. And then the language… and not being able to understand the language and not being able to read the labels on groceries - the first month was really overwhelming.
…Nicole… I had somewhat of a different idea about Israel. I was surprised to find normal stores here with even American products. I didn’t expect it to be so ‘up to date’ (chuckles) and then I realized that I may have been the one not so ‘up to date’.
Q . What is one of the most memorable moments/experiences here in Israel.
…Chris… My best story is the one with my stolen bike. Everybody you talk to will tell you that once a bike is gone it’s gone. But two weeks after my bike was stolen I saw a guy on my bike take it into a building! And I told God that since we have been here, several things got lost or stolen and He saw it fit to return everything, why not the bike. And so I went together with some people from the building to get my bike back and we did (big grin on his face).
Q . What are some of the things you’ll take back to America with you?
…Nicole… I want to continue with the way we eat here – cooking fresh and having all those typical Israeli dishes. I will miss being able to walk and bike everywhere and having shops, restaurants and the beach in such a short distance – so I hope I will keep up the exercise (with a grin on her face).
…Chris… I will take back the concept of Shabbat, because I really enjoy that. Taking a day to rest, unwind and reflect and be with family. I really am going to try not to get caught up in the rat race when we go back to the States.
Q . One thing you would recommend for future volunteers:
…Chris… Take a week or two when you arrive here, figure out basic life here before you start volunteering - it will take time until you establish a routine. Don’t be quick to judge the people and the culture here, give it time. Don’t come here and get frustrated right off, give yourself time to adjust.
…Nicole… Give the people here in Israel a chance, they may sound mean and harsh, but truthfully they are kind. Very often they understand English and are eager to help. The way people interact with each other in public spaces is different here than in the Southern parts of the States. And I had to learn how to be firm and to push in a nice way to get places and to get what I needed (chuckles).
And it is expensive, way more expensive than you think!
Q . Final Comment...
…Nicole… The time here has been challenging, being away from our kids was incredibly hard, but we love it so much that we really want to come back. We have found family and belonging here and a place where we can contribute and help other people to find a family also. A lot of tears will be shed when we have to leave. That you can count on. Leaving family you hold so dear to your heart is never easy.
So we won’t say goodbye. Just so long until next time….