This I Believe

Kristina - St. Louis, Missouri
Entered on September 4, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: setbacks

I believe in love. But it seems like it’s hard for me to do. It was almost two years ago when I learned that love is the only thing that really matters.

Four years ago, after graduating with a degree in social work, I headed off to Cameroon, Africa where I served in the Peace Corps as an HIV/AIDS prevention teacher. I learned much more than I could’ve ever taught; I learned about life.

Upon returning from a meeting at a nearby post, a group of us volunteers were involved in a car accident. When the truck flipped and rolled down the dirt road, the twelve of us in the back flew out. Many of us suffered serious injuries. My head slammed against a rock. I suffered a depressed skull fracture.

After seven hours of transport, I arrived at a hospital in a large city where a neurosurgeon was available to perform needed surgery. Two days later, I was evacuated to South Africa, where I lived in an ICU for three months. I was comatose for two of the three months so it really wasn’t that long.

Upon waking up, I began to understand the seriousness of my situation. I had a traumatic brain injury; was paralyzed on the right side of my body; was breathing through a trachea tube; hooked up to a respirator and ventilator; was suffering from pneumonia and septicemia; and dependant on IVs for nourishment.

Unable to speak because of the trachea tube, thoughts that I normally would’ve spoken remained captured in my mind for only me to hear. From the belief that all that was happening was “a dream”, to the idea that my human rights were repeatedly being violated, to the simple understanding about the key of life.

It is in this understanding that my life was transformed. I no longer concerned myself about what others thought of me or about what I might have for lunch or about lesson plans. I was just trying to live. And in so doing, my thoughts turned to all those who I know and love.

As my needs were simplified, loving in the moment became easier. I began to understand that love is what makes the world turn — true, unselfish love. In the States, I was hospitalized for another week and then underwent seven months of rehabilitation. I learned to walk, write, and use my right arm again, while asserting my love for the world all the while.

After being medically released to work, I went to New Orleans to help with post-Katrina aid. I saw people suffering. I also saw that they too realized, when stripped to the root, what really matters.

It’s difficult to love everyone unselfishly, especially when life catches up with me or when it doesn’t seem reciprocated. And now life seems more complicated. It’s during stressful and tight situations that I’m challenged by my belief. Wouldn’t it just be easier to love on my own terms? Loving when and whom I want to?

Seeing the love that returns to me answers this question. Love is the way.