What Will You Do with Your One Precious Life?

Caroline on the Zambezi

About one week ago, a crew of us loaded up and drove to Chingolala a nearby village to visit the home of Michael Sapilinya. Micheal is one of Jeff’s longstanding friends which we have spent quality time with, in Lusaka and Livingstone. As we pulled into the driveway of Micheal’s home we were greeted by the dancing and loving embrace of Lidia, Micheal’s mom, and a big grin and handshake from his father Edward. I was overtaken by emotions as I could clearly see how Micheal’s explanation of his life story was unfolding in front of my eyes as I met his parents. I felt that I got a glimpse into Micheal’s childhood as I asked his mom questions about his youth, values, and what motivated him at such a young age to pursue university.

While it was such a joy to talk with his parents, I could not help but notice a young boy in a light blue shirt who was sitting on their porch. He sat on a wooden stool watching us as the sunlight touched his skin. As I watched him gaze in curiosity, I could not help but question what he would do with his one precious life. Will he take after Micheal’s example and pursue university? Or will he do something totally new? Will he stay in Zambezi? What will his one precious life look life?

I am challenged by this question as I have noticed that life in Zambezi is about the present. About now. And about living for today. Each day is not a given, so how are we going to live for today, and make it count?

I have wrestled with this question because I think the answer is not definitive. There is no answer but choosing to wake up everyday and do something positive with what we have. I have met a few individuals who have taught and showed me what this looks like.

I want to keep loving and welcoming others into my home like Eucharia. Eucharia has a beautiful way of bringing others into her fold. She treats us all like children of his own. When I had the chance to visit her home for the very first time, I noticed how the whole soccer team and some, were running in and out of her home as if it were their own. Eucharia kept saying “Feel most welcome. My home is yours”. When I have a home of my own one day, I hope to do just the same.

I want to keep finding the joy in my passions like Kelly. Kelly was a young man we met at Sports for Life. He was the DJ that was setting up for the event who is an experienced music producer. He shared that both of his parents had passed very recently. He is the second born and is now responsible for raising his two younger siblings at home. I asked him what brings him the most joy. He immediately lit up and said his music. He learned how to produce music from his father and therefore the passion in producing is very special to Kelly. He described that he has no idea where he would be without music. Music is what fills him up and brings him close to his parents. I was inspired by him sharing so openly and honestly with me about some of the hardest things, but also some of the things that bring him the most life. Kelly is a strong human being who is making a living with his music as he provides for his two younger siblings. I hope to live like him as I follow my passions that bring me the same joy and bring me close to family.

I want to keep trying at everything I do like little Sombo. Sombo is the daughter of Eucharia and Debby (the two legends here in Zambezi). I have helped coach soccer to her throughout the past few weeks. She is seven years old and is working on juggling. Each day she comes to show me with that big smile of hers and the soccer ball that is too big for her, but she tries anyway. Sombo keeps practicing one juggle at time. One day she will reach her goal of ten soccer juggles. I too, hope to keep trying, practicing, and not give up just as she does.

I want to connect deeply like all of my Gonzaga friends. As someone who is an observant leader and learner, I am so impressed by this team. I am impressed by every single person’s willingness to surrender to the process and honestly just jump in. It has been so beautiful and cool to see the relationships within the group form but mainly the one’s each person has established here in the community. I want to keep connecting and diving deep like I have seen you all do throughout out time here.

Ultimately, with my one precious life, I hope to wake up, love, and let others in like Eucharia, pursue my passions and find joy like Kelly, keep trying at everything I do like Sombo, and connect deeply like all my new Gonzaga friends. I think this question can be a big question, but if broken down and focused on how one will live out their only and precious life daily, it makes it all the easier. What will you do with your one precious life?

Caroline Larsen ’23

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10 Responses to What Will You Do with Your One Precious Life?

  1. Joleen Larsen says:

    Beautiful Caroline! You notice the little things, always. I love reading your reflection of what you see and feel as well as the connection you have made with the dear people of Zambizi. I’m so impressed with your team too! Incredible that you are so blessed to be surrounded by peers who recognize the privilege of serving and are learning so much themselves because they are “all in!”

    To answer your question…To choose joy. It’s all around us. To welcome everyone. All people want to feel at home. To be present. Fully present. Life’s greatest gifts pass us by otherwise. Finally, “He has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

    Lean in. Let go. Press on.

    Love you baby girl,

  2. The Rosenwald Family says:

    Reading your beautiful reflections has become a daily ritual for us. They are a gift, causing us to pause, sometimes in the middle of a hectic day, and consider a new point of view or a thoughtful message. Thank you!

  3. Brady Essmann says:

    OK.. so playing a little catch-up on the comments front. Forgive the long post 🙂

    Dr. J – What a return! I’m thrilled you are back with intentionality in your second home. I can’t wait to hear your stories this time around.

    Jeff Dodd – Hello, hello! I do hope you’re finding time to write, explore, and bring a fresh twist to some Zambian recipes. I’ll never forget you showing me the ropes on my very first risotto in the basement of a church in Denver, circa 2012. Sending you a hug.

    ZamFam 2022 — My heart bursts knowing you’re all having this special experience together. My love to Fr. Dom, and Howard, Humble, Chris, + Junior if they happen to still be around.

    My fiancé and I have loved spending our evenings the last three weeks learning from, processing with, and living vicariously through your journeys! This blog serves as the archetypal “Ignatian pedagogy-in-action” for me, and for that, I just want to express thanks to each of you for your vulnerability and for your seriously impressive storytelling.

    You’ve given us so many moments of outward “Wow, that was really beautifully stated” and “I want to carry those words with me this week”.. so in the spirit of encouraging you to keep “living the questions” we wanted to call out a few of our favorites:

    Sarah – You perfectly depict the recognition of what it means to be hosted, and I hope that message carries in your group’s heart throughout your remaining days. It is so true and ever important.

    Eva – The question of “How do we serve in tandem when the expectation is us wanting to be served?” is one that really hit home; sitting in this tension and dedicating yourself to it is such a worthy practice.

    Nicole – Are you an English major? If you’re not.. you probably should be. Not one to give life advice to a complete stranger, but my goodness. Your words took me back to my very first game drive and all it’s magic. You are a writer, my friend.

    Katy — Thank you for joyfully capturing the one place in the world I’ve never felt more alive. But also, I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY LET YOU DO THE SWING AND BUNGEE – NOT FAIR HOW MANY WAIVERS DID YOU HAVE TO SIGN? Very jealous.

    Paal — My first question for you… come on, grab 3 tomatoes, smash ‘em and you have your paste! Jest aside, the overstimulation is real, and I deeply appreciate the level of self-awareness that comes through in your writing. Give yourself grace in this experience; the fact you are asking these questions means you are on the right track.

    Emily — Beautiful post. I got chills as I read your words reflecting on the importance of “these little things” — the community you depict is indeed, inspiring.

    Kalie — The journey you’re on to seek and embrace your inward self, passions and purpose is the most important one of all.. and is, as you’ve already astutely noted, so easy to forgot back in the “routine” of the day-to-day. Thank you for this gentle reminder.

    Audrey —I may have gotten a bit emotional in reading your description of Zambezi’s “radical welcome” (and I’d be lying if I told you I’m not absolutely going to steal it into my own vernacular). Learning to reciprocate and carry that spirit into your own world is one of the most special gifts.

    Joci — Ahh, the beauty of travel so perfectly depicted (and perhaps the most iconic blog post title.. ever). Reading your post had me planning our next adventure as we sit here captive to the clock and technology that binds us to the “job” (even when you really, really love the job). Thank you for your vulnerability in the contradictions you’re experiencing. You’ll continue processing years down the line — when a simple handshake, smell, or sunset will take you back to the streets of Zambezi. You are never alone.

    Jazmine — Looking to Josh for confirmation here 😉 but one of – if not the most – important prerequisites to accompaniment is trust. Thank you for this post acknowledging this virtue, and the need for that trust to work both ways. (PS – Simon Sinek has a great Ted Talk on the importance of trust in leadership you may like.. a great plane listen, perhaps!)

    Brendan — Grateful for your introspection on walking (or in this case, boating) in the shoes of another, working to understand their way of life, of being. It makes all the difference. What a world we’d shape if everyone entertained this practice in their lives.

    Mackenzie — What a post! Encompassing two of the best things in the world — a Zambezi dance party and 4-hour church service 🙂 Thank for you for words. The idea of letting “home” live in connections and engagement with others is profound. “Journey or Destination? Neither – it’s the company.”

    Andi — One of the lessons from Zambezi I’ve vividly carried in my heart — a decade later (that sure makes you feel old…) — is leaning into the discomfort. The vibrancy of worship in Zambia carries through to every corner of life in that sacred space. Thank you for giving those precious memories new life. (And James the tailor!! He made the most beautiful dress, bowties, and yoga bag we still have and use today! Give him a hug for me please.)

    Ava — Wonderful reflection on the rote memorization taught in East Africa vs the meaning of critical thinking. I deeply appreciate how you’ve challenged what the latter means in context, and the pledge you’ve taken to live out upon your return. Thank you for sharing.

    Tyler — what a powerful reminder of how different the world looks when we move from “I have to” to “I get to.” Your gratitude is infectious, and I found myself smiling as you shared each individual story of strength. Stick with it – I promise you’ll miss the exhaustion of days past.

    Dugan — A perfect testament to the meaning of community — one that “surprises and affirms.” Grateful for your words on breaking and re-setting expectations.

    Caroline — If a Mary Oliver quote isn’t the best way to start one’s day, I’m not sure what is. A lovely tribute indeed to the individuals who have clearly made an impact on you during your time in Zambezi – thank you for introducing them to us.

    “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work… Pay attention, be astonished. Tell about it.”

    Appreciate you all & looking forward to continue following along.

    Mwanes on mwanes,
    Brady Essmann
    GU alum 2014, Zambezi 2012 cohort

  4. Jennifer Akins says:

    Oh my! This is one of my favorite quotes, illustrated so beautifully with insight into the many ways that Zambezians are choosing their one precious life on a daily basis.
    There is a description of leadership that I love that is something like “organizing joyful encounters.” That’s not a great paraphrase, but the authors are Munro & Thanem (2018). Seeing and participating in and organizing these emerging encounters requires close observation of the world and your reflection made me think of how much I love this idea. And of course, “it’s all about love” (hooks, 2018). (Academic citations in informal conversation are probably a sign that I should get out more. Immerse yourselves in Zambezi on my behalf!!!)

  5. Maureen Hayes says:

    Greetings and thanks to the lovely 2022 ZagZamFam! As the parent of a 2019 ZagZamFam member, I love reading your blog postings and relish all the wonderful ways you’re being impacted. These impacts will “ruin” you for the rest of your lives in all the best possible ways. You’ll be forever touched by the encounters that have taken you outside of your comfort zones and your normal daily lives. They will become painted on your soul and color every experience you have in the future. Always remember what a gift this adventure has been. Know that you’re all in my prayers as you continue on this journey.

    Maureen Hayes

  6. Bundy Family says:

    What a wonderful glimpse into the special moments of connection and inspiration you have had in Zambia! Mary Oliver’s poetry always resonates with my heart-a perfect choice to challenge all of us, at home or in Zambia! I already know that you are loving, compassionate, determined(full of grit), and a blessing to those who know you. Praying that the Zambian memories and lessons will follow and inspire you in all the wonderful adventures you have to come! Much love, Pam

  7. Kerrin Thomas says:


    Your reflection is so beautiful and moving. I love your picture as well looking at the sunset 🙂 I hope to chat with you at Tyler after your return and hear more about your amazing experiences!! xoxo

  8. Molly Watts says:

    One of my most favorite quotes Caroline and such a powerful reminder to all of us to embrace the day, connect with everything around you and don’t waste time worrying about the small stuff. Thanks to all the Zag bloggers for allowing us to “accompany” you in this journey!

  9. Newson Family says:

    That was beautifully written. It was great reminder to be present in the moment & appreciate the many blessings God gives us daily.

    Praying for everyone’s safety in the final week in Zambezi

    p/s Cinco sends his regards to Jazmine! 🙂

  10. Suzanne Rettenmier says:

    Thank you to all the bloggers this week. We continue to be filled up with your experiences and insights. I am grateful you find the time and effort to share, so eloquently, about your new experiences and relationships. We love and miss you!
    Mama Rett

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