Back to Reality: More questions?

We’ve been back two days.  I have settled back into my home with all the luxuries that most Americans enjoy:  air-conditioning, smooth roads, digital television, closets full of clothes, different shoes for each day of the week, refrigeration for an abundance of fresh and frozen groceries… I could go on and on.   It is very easy to settle back into our cocoon of comfort.  But, it is not easy to wipe my mind of the faces of the children and families living in absolute poverty in Haiti.  A friend posed this question: “Just read your blog...very interesting experiences. How would you say it will change you going forward?”  Thank you (you know who you are) for forcing me to address the question that I have been pushing to the back of my mind since the plane ride home!  

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I didn’t respond to the question right away because I really didn’t have a good answer.  I am not sure that I have a good response even now.  I have been on other humanitarian medical trips to Ethiopia and Kenya.  And each time I have been touched by the incredible children and faces that find a pure and simple joy in life.  But this trip was a bit different.  I saw more misery than I ever witnessed before.  Less malnutrition, less isolation… but more unbearable poverty.  I keep picturing children without shoes walking through disease-ridden and garbage filled waters of Saint Michel.  

How will I change?  Is there a good answer to this question?  Ethicists and psychologists and humanitarians and spiritual leaders have been struggling with this question for decades so how could I even attempt to answer the question???  Hmm… It's not as though there is one standard way of reacting to humanitarian work. Certainly, I will strive to stop complaining about my own problems.  Having a broader view of the world doesn't excuse inappropriate behavior towards my friends and those whom I encounter each day.   I will attempt to empathize with the frustrations of the people around me, whether they are large or small.  Most of all, I think that I will continue to ask questions… Can I see myself not doing this kind of work?  Is there more that I can do, even at home?  Are the things that I stress about really important in the larger scheme of things?  Did I really make a difference?  Can I continue to make a difference?  Can I find the simple joys in life?  I suspect that the questions will keep coming, rather than the answers.  

It is easy to lose perspective living in an industrialized nation.  And, it is easy to get frustrated with those around you who have never experienced anything worse than a bad haircut or a missed dinner or a flat tire.  But that is not the kind of person that I want to be.  I will remember that each person’s needs are based on their realities, the situations that they find themselves in.  I will say to myself, “This is this person's reality right now. It doesn't make them a bad person. It just means they're fortunate to not have any harder things to deal with."  I will also strive to have a couple of really good friends that I can vent to, without them judging me or making them feel like I am judging them.  Regardless of your faith…Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Moslem or any other basis of spirituality, the ability to give hope to one another is equal to the depth of our love and acceptance (Thank you, Ellen!).  Non-judgment, acceptance, laughter and simple joy in life.  I will strive each day to remember that it is important to be who I am, rather than what.  And when I catch myself forgetting, I will reread my blogs, look at the pictures of the children and go to my yoga mat!  Remember to give thanks for all that you have AND all that you don’t have.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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