India – What I Should Have Known
I went to India to learn what I should have already known. OK, that probably seems like an odd way to start the final blog entry about a medical mission trip but I think I can explain.
This inaugural mission to India is finished and all 15 members are now back at home. I know I went off line for a few days but as you travel you don’t always have the best access to internet and a quiet place to write. You would think an overnight train from Bhopal to Agra would give you all the inspiration one would need to complete a blog entry but the top bunk on a night train through India is a little more cramped than one might think. In all honesty, I wanted to take a little time to process what I witnessed during the week. I feel this trip will be a memory for quite some time and I hope each of the mission members can hold on to the effects of the trip for a while now that they are home and soon will be settled back into their normal routine.
To say the mission was a success would be an understatement. On each trip that I have been a part of our Mission Coordinator, Abigail Hayo will tell you at some point “it is not all about the numbers.” She is right. There is so much that happens on a mission. In the end, there were 105 surgeries performed including procedures that range from gallbladders to hernias to removal of something from a neck that just didn’t look good at all. The planning, the travel and the long hours of work are for a group of people that desperately need medical care. Those treated just can’t afford all of the care they need for the quality of life they deserve. And the hospital and its staff, as magnificent as they are, just can’t sustain providing all of the treatment that needs to be given. The need is clear and there is more work to be done.
So, what did I learn that I should have already known?
Speak kindly, show compassion and serve. Everyone can take a minute each day to share a kind word and do something good for someone. The people in India reminded me that we need to do what we can and we can learn from their culture to serve to the best of our ability. No matter how big or small the gesture is, it is important to share a kind word and to serve in some capacity.
Everyone can make a difference. I traveled with a group of mission volunteers that are some of the most talented medical professionals, as well as caring and giving people I have ever met. They give until I wonder how they have anything left to give but they are there to make a difference; and they succeed beyond anyone’s imagination. They clearly made a difference in the lives of many while on this mission.
Sometimes it is ok to ask for help. The Sewa Eye Hospital understands there is a great need and without the support from organizations like Medical Missions Foundation they cannot offer all of the care that is needed in the area. They can’t do it alone just as our volunteers can’t make this kind of successful missions a reality without the support of friends and family as well as donations from our Medical Missions Foundation family. It took all of us to make this mission so successful.
And lastly, my life should be my message. We had a chance to briefly stop at the location Gandhi spent his last 144 days before he was killed. In a room on the wall was quote from him that you all may have heard many times, “My Life is My Message.” Seeing it in that place at that time made the words much more meaningful for me. I stood there for quite some time and recalled what I saw during the week. We all met amazing people from an incredible country. I had the opportunity to watch firsthand the other mission volunteers apply their trade to help people they have never met. As often as I have seen their work I am still amazed. We have but one chance at a life where we can create a message that makes us proud. I hope your message will include a sampling of compassion for others, the ability to share a kind word and a little about making a difference for someone else because if you do, in the end, the real difference will be the one made in your life.