From the moment we met at the airport to depart, many of us became immediate friends. By the end of the last reflection, many of us felt that we belonged to a unique family of which we will always be a part of. No one seemed to mind giving up warm showers for buckets of water to wash themselves with, sharing a room with seven other people, or the sounds of farm life before sunrise. We understand that we could have easily been the family living in a clay home with a metal roof hour away from the city, but it didn’t turn out to be so. Still, we all shared the same experience deep in the mountains of rural Haiti in Saint Michele d’Attalaye, and that experience is this – the compassion for humanity. It exists within us all.
People have come from several different backgrounds, specialties, studies, and hometowns – business, pharmacy, Florida, pediatrics, public health, Haiti, orthopedics, nursing, Vietnam, and IT, just to name a few. Even with all our differences, there is a bond – the desire to give back. Our compassion for humanity unites us. What the world sees as different amongst us, we have used as strengths. It has been through this coming together that we were able to serve over 700 patients this trip, and it was because of our differences that we did it so well.
Immersing yourself into the rural life of another country brings those hard questions to mind – am I deserving of what I have been given? One questions morals, gratitude, and the general attitude toward everyday life. We are all leaving with a greater appreciation for life.
The challenge comes when the high of the rural life fades away, and we return to our everyday routine and mentality.
The challenge comes when the insignificant first world problems superimpose themselves over the lessons learned and lived in this experience.
The question then becomes how does one remember to never forget? Perhaps some will have a photo on their night stand so it is the first and last thing they see in the day. For others it may be keeping in contact with the group we bonded so well with. Regardless of the way we choose to remember, it is important that we find ways to never forget. Never stop thinking of ways to improve, ways to build, and ways to empower. We are all descendants of immigrants. Our grandparents never stopped. Our parents never once stopped. We will not stop.
It was time to go home. All packed up and ready to go, I drug my bags downstairs to add to the pile of other bags, and headed in for breakfast. We were all filled with so much energy, as we munched with joy, took pictures and videos with each other in glee, and happily talked and laughed with each other. As we boarded the bus for one last time, I couldn’t help but reflect on all that we went through that week.
Gratefulness filled my heart, as I realized that the everyday lifestyle of our Haitian people would have been my everyday lifestyle, had my family not had received a blessed opportunity to live in the states. Amazement swept through me as I reflected on how many of the people of this community lacked basic health care, yet there we were in America, complaining about the health care we had there. How amazing it is that the very things we so carelessly argued and complained about were the very things my people were praying for. Peace filled me as I realized just how many lives we did impact and help. Happiness washed over me as I thought of all the fun times I had bonding with our team, who now felt like family. Intelligence grew in me, due to all the new things I learned over the past days, from medical diagnoses and drugs, to Creole terminology, to historical facts of Haiti.
We pulled up to the airport many hours later (with a quick stop at a gas station in between, of course), and made our way through the familiarly tedious process of maneuvering through the airport to the plane. Though our plane was delayed for about a couple hours, it eventually took off, and landed us all safely back in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Final goodbyes were said, final hugs were given, and final contact information was exchanged. I couldn’t help but feel so full. Not full from food. But full form the knowledge, experience, love and impact that occurred during these 6 days. I left a piece of my heart in Haiti this time around, and I couldn’t wait to return again to do so much more.