One year ago in August, a girl of about eight years stood on the side of a dirt road on the outskirts of Managua, Nicaragua. Dressed in clothes crafted out of dirty towels and other discarded materials found at a local trash dump, she shielded her eyes from the sun and looked up as a bus full of eleven teenagers pulled into the nearby gas station. She heard the faint tune of The General, a song unknown to her, playing from the speakers in the back. Intrigued, she listened more closely and could hear the sound of eleven high school students singing along to their favorite band, Dispatch. I waved to her as the bus came to a stop. She watched as we exited, still singing, and made our way into the convenience store.
It was pure coincidence that each of us, who had met up at the Dallas International Airport to travel to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, was in love with the same band. Maybe it was also coincidence that, following the band’s break up in 2003, the drummer, Braddigan, had become interested in the conditions of extreme poverty in Nicaragua. And maybe it was coincidence that we decided to stop at that gas station for a break from our five-hour drive to the orphanage. Or maybe it was fate.
After practicing our Spanish by purchasing the chocolate and vanilla cookies know as chikis, we noticed that there was another American in the convenience store. Summer is not the high season for tourism in Nicaragua, and most tourists don’t find themselves at local gas stations that often. We were curious. One of my friends on the trip, James, sparked a conversation with the man and we told him about our homestay in Costa Rica and our work at Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (Our Little Brothers/Sisters), an orphanage in the middle of Nicaragua. When we asked what brought him to the country, he showed us a CD. “I’m using my music to raise awareness of the poor conditions many of the children live in here in Nicaragua,” he explained. My thoughts drifted back to the little girl outside the gas station. His next comment brought me back: “Have you guys heard of the band, Dispatch?” A flurry of enthusiastic affirmations followed. He then responded, “I’m the drummer.”
James was the first to stammer: “…No, you’re not.”
I’ve heard that denial is a side effect of shock, and as it turns out, James was wrong. Standing in front of us, in a gas station in the middle of Nicaragua, was Braddigan, the drummer of Dispatch. After the initial astonishment, we talked to Braddigan about his organization, Love Light & Melody, with which he raises money to help fight the effects of extreme poverty on the people living in the trash dump in Managua, Nicaragua. When it was time for us to get back on the bus, Braddigan gave us each a copy of his CD, and we said one last goodbye. We spent the rest of the bus ride telling ourselves the story over and over again as if to make sure that it had actually happened. As I clutched the CD in my hand I noticed it was titled, para nica, meaning for a Nicaraguan girl. I was once again reminded of the little girl I waved to when we arrived. I looked out the window one last time and saw her standing in the same spot watching us leave.
A year later and 3500 miles north, James was star struck a second time. We once again stood in front of Braddigan; however, this time we had just watched him perform on stage at the Naukabout Music Festival in Cape Cod. James almost fainted when, after the performance, we approached Braddigan and he remembered us. I don’t remember much of the conversation except for the last thing he said to me as he picked up his guitar to leave. Very casually he said, “Hey, you should email us at the Love Light & Melody website, we’ll totally come play at your school.”
For the past two months I have been emailing back and forth with the executive director of Love Light & Melody along with Braddigan’s manager. As a member of the Leadership Advisory Board, or LAB, an organization at my school that focuses on raising awareness of global issues, I have been working with the other members to try to organize a Braddigan benefit concert in Kansas City for high school students that would raise money for the organization.
While the story I will always tell my friends is how I met the drummer of Dispatch at a gas station in Nicaragua, my most vivid memory will always be of that little girl standing on the side of the road. When trying to organize the concert the one thing that has stuck in my mind has been the image of the little Nicaragua girl. Maybe it was coincidence that we happened to stop at the same gas station as Braddigan, but maybe it was fate that the girl happened to be standing there also, because I now have to motivation to organize the concert, and help raise money for that girl and the other children living off the trash dump in Nicaragua.