On a Mission: Being Grateful
When you hear “Jamaica” beauty usually comes to mind. Palm trees. Sand. Beaches. Fruity or exotic drinks. Etcetera etcetera.
When people heard I was going to Jamaica, the first thing they wanted was “pretty pictures” or a souvenir. The reality was, deep down I hoped I would be able to capture those pictures or swipe a few keychains, but my reality was quite different upon arrival into Kingston, Jamaica.
We landed in Kingston around 6PM. By the time we made it through customs, retrieved our bags from baggage claim and headed to our hotel, it was well after 8PM. With it being so dark outside, and not many street lights, I couldn't see much of the city, only what was directly in front of the headlights of the car. I gave up on trying to capture anything that night. We drove, what seemed like forever, to our hotel and called it a night.
The next morning, we had a free day. My mom and I got dressed and decided we were going to go walking. Once we got outside, we noticed that NOTHING was in our area; a fountain across the street and maybe two or three other hotels. So, we quickly realized that the extra days we had decided to stay in Kingston, Jamaica to "see the sites" were now seemingly a waste of money.
On Sunday, August 26th we decided to join Bishop McCullough and her team at WAFIF Church, in Spanish Town, for worship. It wasn't much different from worship anywhere else, except for the "neighborhood." We learned that we would be using the church's facility and property to run the medical clinic for that week. We were told that hundreds maybe even thousands of Jamaicans would flood the area to receive free medical care. I couldn't conceptualize it during the worship service. The space didn't seem large enough. People would never find us there. It was too hot, they wouldn't wait in the sun. But, I was there to serve, no matter what I thought the outcome would be.
Our true mission started on Monday, August 27th. We boarded a bus with medical doctors, dentists, GYNs, Nurses, Optometrists, Counselors, and other volunteers. It was time for setup. Over 300 people came together, that day, to stuff thousands of "goodie" bags full of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary pads, non-perishable food items; book bags full of books, pencils, journals, etc. ….basically, we were giving thousands of people things that we often take for granted having access to.
Up at 4AM. In the lobby at 5AM. On the bus by 5:15AM. Arrived at the Medical Clinic at 6AM. As we approached the church gates there were people lined up down the street. It was
unbelievable; like something I'd never seen before in my life. Tears filled my eyes because I had never seen so many people deprived of medical care, yet not afraid to ask for help.
yWe started our day with a few devotional songs, scripture and prayer. We were assigned to our stations and encouraged to be as open and friendly as possible; it was going to be a long day.
The gates opened and people flooded inside.
Children were taken to the Kid's Zone, parents sat and waited under tents until they could be seen by the medical doctors. It was a relatively well-oiled machine.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to see everybody that came on Day 1, but they were given wristbands to come back the next day and have priority on re-entry into the clinic.
Day 2 of the clinic. Up at 4AM. In the lobby by 5AM. On the bus by 5:15AM. Arrived at the Medical Clinic at 6AM.
There were more people on Day Two. People that had been given wristbands to come back, those that had been turned away at the gate, plus a few hundred more.
My feet were killing me. Walking around all day. Interacting with patients.
Making sure that they were able to get the food we had provided on-site. Taking children to the restroom. Ensuring no one got into a fight under the tent. All in 90+ degree weather.
By the end of the day (4PM) I was tired to say the least. I had made up in my mind that I wasn't going to the clinic on Friday; I only had one more day of heat exhaustion, sunburn, and serving in me.
Day 3 of the clinic. Up at 4AM. In the lobby by 5AM. On the bus by 5:15AM. Arrived at the Medical Clinic by 6AM.
I was excited for Thursday because we were closing the clinic down early. Which meant, I had 1 less hour to deal with the "woes" of serving people who were seemingly ungrateful.
We were fussed at by locals for running out of food. We couldn't keep the water cold enough because the sun would melt the ice. People were frustrated because they had to stand and wait in long lines outside of the gate, only to have to stand inside and wait to be seen by a doctor. There weren't enough chairs or tents to allow people to rest their feet and hide out from the sun. Children were running around with no supervision.
In my mind, it was chaos. I was tired. I wanted to go home. I was pretty content with my decision to make Thursday my last day. I just couldn't do it on Friday. I had, had enough.
At 7:00PM, I turned my alarm clock off and went to sleep.
4AM - my eyes popped open. My mom was already moving and about to get dressed. When I saw her go into the bathroom I was determined to go back to sleep. But I couldn't. Something on the inside was working on me. I heard His voice clear as day…
"You came to serve. So, serve!"
Reluctantly, I got up - stood on my blistered heels and groaned all the way to the bathroom.
5:15AM - on the bus. Tired. Annoyed. Irritated.
6AM - we pull up to the Medical Clinic and the line was longer than it had been any of the other three days we'd been there. I sat up in my seat and instantly started crying. I began to cry, not because of the pain I was enduring but because of the pain I was complaining about.
I had complained the entire morning about what I was going through, that could be easily remedied when I returned to The States.
But, this was home for the thousands of those that we were able to provide service for. Some had walked a few dozen miles just to get to the gate and be turned away and told they could come back "tomorrow." Some had blood pressure so high that they weren't even able to communicate their needs once they were inside. There were so many who came with cataracts and a hope that the medicine that we administered would bring some relief until we could come back again and they could get care for free. Some women came, pregnant, that had never seen a physician - had no idea whether they or their babies were healthy enough to sustain the pregnancy. The ungratefulness I thought I saw within them, now surged through my body. Little did I know, they weren't ungrateful, they were simply trying to grasp the reality that when we left, for some, there would be no hope for their conditions. We were the light they needed, that would only shine for what seemed like a moment. So, I pulled myself together and I served!
By the end of the day we were able to service everyone that was in the line; we didn't have to turn anyone away. Reports showed that the clinic provided healthcare services to over 3,000 people within the Spanish Town, Jamaica community. I was proud of myself. I had been a part of something so meaningful and it felt so rewarding.
I went to serve. So, I served.
See, in The States there are tons of us that don't have the money for health insurance, or the means to pay out of pocket for healthcare; I know because I'm one of them. When I decided to leave my corporate job one of the many benefits that I left behind was health insurance. I tried to keep up with it for a while, but having to pay out of pocket for it got to be a bit much. I made the decision to allocate those funds elsewhere and relieve myself of the responsibility of paying that monthly bill. Call me crazy, but health insurance isn't exactly the most affordable thing in the world *insert shoulder shrug here.*
So, what's the difference between me and the residents of Spanish Town, Jamaica you may ask?
I still have access. Even without insurance, I still have the means to drive myself to an emergency room, be seen by a doctor, get medicine prescribed, etc. My decision as an entrepreneur doesn't deny me the right to be treated; it simply takes away the affordability. Some, like myself, may see that as a thorn. But, after visiting Jamaica I have a new outlook on what I consider a thorn that hinders me vs. a thorn that encourages growth.
I came home understanding that I HAVE IT MADE!! WE ALL DO!! With or without insurance we should be grateful for the technology, medicine, and knowledge that we have here in The States that allows us to get help when it's needed the most. Help, while costly, that others can't even dream of having access to.
I realized after I left corporate America, that I had spent nearly 364 days complaining about what I didn't have; and only reserved the 3rd Thursday of the this month to be thankful for what I did. What about being grateful for waking up every morning? God thinks enough of us every day to breathe life into our bodies and to give us the activity of our limbs.
I may not have everything that I want and that society thinks I need, but I'm grateful for what I often take for granted. Life & Access.
Remember to be thankful and grateful everyday not just before you eat a big meal in November.
Disclaimer: I know I'm not the only one without health insurance in the world. I'm just one of the ones brave enough to admit it on my taxes. But this blog is not encouraging you all to get rid of your health insurance. So, please don't do that and then write to me complaining about the extra fees you have to pay during tax season for not having it.
Some may deem it as irresponsible, but this is simply one of the many decisions & phases of my Faith & Life Journey!! Be Wise Dear Hearts.