Wow, it’s hard to believe that the past ten days have gone by so fast! It feels like just yesterday we started our first clinic in San Juan Bautista, when in actuality I’m on the plane on our way home. I don’t think words can accurately describe the effect this trip has had on me as a person. Coming into this trip, I didn’t really know what to expect, which I truly believe benefited me in the end. I let go of my worries and let God take control, knowing he would lead me in the right path and help me through anything.
Like everyone who went on the trip, I was stretched just about to my limit. I came into this trip thinking that I’d be helping in the pharmacy. Little did I know that it would be the easiest job that I would be performing this week. When I wasn’t busy working in the pharmacy counting out various pills that our doctors needed, I had an opportunity to help by using my Spanish. I knew the Lord would guide me through my most difficult task, and he didn’t lead me astray. He gave me the courage to not only step in, but he provided me with the strength and filled my mouth with the words I needed. Not only did my Spanish improve greatly this week, but so did my relationship with the Lord. I realized that if I laid all my trust and faith in him, he would provide. The last stretch that I felt this week had to deal with the medical field. One part of my job as a pharmacy assistant was to help the doctors (mostly Rich) prepare steroid injections for patients with sore joints. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that by the end of the clinics I would have helped with eight steroid injections. Rich had faith in me, even when I didn’t have any faith in me. It seems redundant, but I laid my trust in the Lord and just like every other time on this trip, he delivered.
Last night at dinner at a restaurant called La Paloma, everyone in the group shared a stretch and also a treasure. This was very hard for me to do, because there are so many treasures that I’ll take away from this trip and never forget for as long as I live. One treasure for me was getting to come on this trip with my Dad. I got to see him care for patients while utilizing his Spanish skills, I got to see him connect with his oldest and best friends, and I got to bond with him for ten days for one of the last times before I head off to college. This was truly and incredible experience and there was no one I’d rather share it with. Another treasure I’m going to take away from this trip is the fact that I made seven amazing people that I can now call my friends. There are special characteristics about all of them that I’ll never forget. My dad is the most caring man I’ve ever met, Rich is a mastermind of medicine and is like the Energizer bunny never running out of energy, Lia was our fearless leader who as my dad said brought us right to the edge but never quite over, Stephanie was a great interpreter and is kind to everyone and always had a smile on her face, Cathy is a fun, witty person and I know why she gets along so well with my dad, Pat is a very funny, easy-going fun person to be around, Dawn is an extremely caring person who finds the best in every situation, and Helen is a very happy, calm, and a fun person to talk to. Lastly, the greatest treasure I received on this trip was the opportunity to serve the Lord in the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. He showed me patience, courage, kindness, and compassion to all. I only hope that I’ll be able to take these skills back home with me and use them in the United States as well. This was an amazing trip and it’s something I will never forget.
“Above all, our very nature requires us to be interested in others. When there is something beautiful within us we desire to communicate it with others. When we see others who are worse off than we are, we desire to help them with something of ours. This need is so original, so natural, that it is within us before we are conscious of it.” This observation by Monsignor Luigi Giussani on the nature of charitable work makes so much sense to me now, at the end of our time here in Chiapas.
Since it is impossible to neatly summarize my experience of these last ten days, I will share instead a detail of the work that has struck me. Working as an interpreter, there always comes a time during each consult when the patient and the interpreter wait for the doctor to return from the pharmacy with the necessary medicines. I have to admit, this is one of the most challenging parts of the clinic for me. While the rest of the day is often a blur and the actual consult requires a great deal of concentration, these moments with the patient are a time to stand still. First, we exchange shy smiles, then there is an awkward silence, and finally, slowly, the conversation starts. I have come to understand that the tension present right then is definitive. It is the battle between that within us which keeps us selfish and inward-looking and that part of us that “requires us to be interested in others.” There are times when I am painfully overwhelmed by the difference between what is “normal” for me and what is “normal” for the person sitting across from me. Then there are other times—grace-filled times—when I understand that an 80-year-old man sitting across from me, who has cataracts and lives in a remote village in Chiapas has the exact same fundamental needs I do and desires happiness as much as I do. In other words, we are more similar than circumstance and appearance would fool us into believing. It takes a simple and courageous heart to leap across the “us and them” divide, but ultimately, I have learned, taking that leap corresponds to me so much more than standing safely still.
It has been an honor to serve alongside this fine and dedicated group of doctors, pharmacists, one very sweet nurse, and, of course, my mother, whose passion for this mission is so evident. May we all continue to strive to see and serve with the gaze of Christ as we head home.