Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happiness is Not the Absence of Problems

All the volunteers from our last session left on Friday morning. With no volunteers for three days, we were able to all do a medical clinic, just us 6 coordinators. I love leaving campus and going out to a leprosy colony. Usually I work in the school every day, so I don't get much of a chance to see India and meet the people.

We went to a lovely colony, a row of housing that Belgium gave to India as a thank you for some relief India provided Belgium at one time.

Even though it's well-kept on the outside, the rooms are like any other housing: concrete walls and a concrete floor with metal-framed beds and maybe a 1-inch mattress on top. That's it. Nothing more. And we were all admiring how nice it is, compared to other colonies.

Anyway, the take away I got from this clinic is that we REALLY choose our own happiness. We met this man, Appu, who couldn't speak, but he could make sounds and, boy, could he smile! He never stopped smiling his biggest smile. He was so happy we were there. He wanted his picture taken, so here it is.

He is quite a dancer, too. After treating everyone, we played some music and the patients who can stand well started busting all kinds of moves! It's amazing how music transcends all language barriers. This man in the pink shirt, Yesu, doesn't have leprosy anymore, but he was sent to this colony by his own wife and children who didn't want to live with him after he contracted leprosy, even though it was treated early enough that no damage was done to his body. Very sad. But this is his home, and at least while we were there, he was happy, dancing his heart out.

There were several cute puppies who enjoyed watching us work.

My job this time was placing eye drops in the patient's eyes. Leprosy dries out the eyes.

Carson worked the  blood pressure station.

One of my highs of the day was how I sat down by this sweet lady after I had finished my job, and she threw her arm (and fingerless hand) around my shoulders. Who does that to a near-perfect stranger, who you can't speak with and get to know? These very loving, accepting, happy leprosy patients, that's who.

When the patients want to say thank you to us, they often put their hands together and bow their head, like they're praying. That's what this man did in this photo.

After leaving the colony, we visited an old hospital that now seems to be a nursing home for elderly people. They rarely get visitors, and were so happy to see us. They didn't expect us to give them anything, they were just so thrilled that we took the time to visit them. It made me remember what Mother Theresa said, that there is more hunger for love and attention in this world than for bread. They wanted us to take pictures of them and show them, to tell us things even though we couldn't understand, to show us their bed and their possession or two of maybe a soda bottle or a blanket. One man told us he is 87 years old and proudly showed us to put on his prosthetic leg. The other men watching almost looked jealous that he had something so unique to show us.

There was nothing in that hospital room but beds. No entertainment, no bingo, no movie night, no pianist playing in the lobby, no homemade cards on the wall from grandchildren, and no families visiting like you'd see at any nursing home in the U.S. But they were cheerful. They smiled non-stop at us.  It was hard to leave them, knowing they'd be back in their lonely state until who knows when.

I kept thinking how these people were once somebody's precious little child, and they're probably somebody's grandparents, but now they're just viewed as individuals in a nursing home. They are so much more than that!

I absolutely love going to leprosy colonies, because I always learn SO much from these sweet souls I can't even speak a word with. I hope that I can always remember them, especially during times when my natural inclination would be to feel sorry for myself or think I'm going through a tragedy I can't be happy through. If they can choose happiness with hardly any health, no acceptance, little mobility, no bank account, no hope for relief, no home of their own, no delicious food, and virtually no physical comfort, I'd be a weak soul to NOT choose happiness when I have all those things. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the wonderful lessons you teach us through your service and expressions of love for the people you serve.


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