This I Believe

Susan - St. Helena, California
Entered on May 18, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that truth is found by submitting to the needs of others.

My husband and I are starting a medical mission in Nicaragua. Our first trip to the country took place in February, over a few abundant days during which the taint of hopelessness was balanced by the kind of complete joy that comes only through genuine human connection. We were hooked, our resolve strengthened rather than tempered by the clear challenges that lie ahead.

When we got home, people we knew were curious to hear how our trip went. My husband and I always answered in a similar way: “It was great!” or “It was amazing!” I noticed that some people seemed a little puzzled or thrown off by my response and it struck me that what they expected us to say was, “It was sad … it was overwhelming … it was really hard.” And all of those things were true as well – it’s sad to see children living in mud shacks, it’s overwhelming to enter a hospital where patients’ with severed limbs best hope is probably a pair of crutches (if they can find some on their own), where there is not only no hot water, but there’s only water of any sort three days a week, where 14-year-old girls lay two-to-a-bed waiting to give birth to babies who they have no way to support. All of that was really hard to see, and it was sad, because it felt unfair – especially when you’re as fortunate as we are. But what was great, what was amazing, was that I could travel to a place very different from my own and begin to find myself in people who served no instrumental purpose in my life – in people, strangers, who welcomed me, kids who wrapped their arms around me, and slipped their hands into mine, and begged for any small look or word of sweetness or affection. Just that alone – that realization that even my smallest act of love was received like a treasure, that I could alter lives just by caring – that was great. That was amazing. And it was amazing, I think, because it reminded me of who I was meant to be, and I got to catch a tiny glimpse of what I could be, I got that rare chance to experience myself at my very best. It was then that I began to understand the real power of love and the freedom that comes with it when you step forward and say, “I’m here. I’m here for you.”

I believe in that simple act of presence, sensing deep within that it will lead me home.