- A guest post by April Harris (fellow KY gal!) about finding your passion as well as your compassion. Sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zone to become the people we were meant to be...
By: April Harris
It wasn’t until I began working in a very small, rural area that I started picking up one-liners about life. You know, the ones like “That’ll go over like a turd in a punch bowl,” or “I’m hanging around like a hair on a biscuit.” Needless to say, my vocabulary and the way I look at punch bowls and biscuits have definitely changed. Some of the more common and normal one-liners we all learned along our childhood were “always see the glass half-full, they’re looking through rose-colored glasses, or patience is a virtue.” The rose-colored glasses one always intrigued me, the utopia of seeing something at its best, all of the time. So let me ask, do you see the world through rose-colored glasses… do you see rainbows after storms, healing from disease, and flowers always in bloom? Or maybe you’re more of a realistic, and see uncertainty about paying your bills, lack of confidence in your child’s teacher, or struggling with the number when you step on a scale. But now take a step back and think, “Do you really even see the world we live in?”
I’ll be honest and say I didn’t. I turned the TV every time Feed the Children commercials came on even though it hurt my heart, and I cringed when I heard about stories from far off lands but they were just that, far off lands. During my Master’s orientation at UK, I heard former students speak about an annual trip to Ecuador for a public health brigade and thought to myself, “Ugh, I’d never go to Ecuador. Where in the heck is Ecuador?” Then about a year later when I was mentally and physically exhausted from working full-time, going to school in Lexington part-time and living up the spoiled single girl life, I heard the trip to Ecuador could count for internship hours. Bingo, the selfish part of me thought, “Great, I can knock out some hours for my internship, go zip-lining, and maybe meet a hot medical school student along the way.” I applied for the trip and low and behold I was accepted.
July 31, 2009 I arrived at the Lexington Airport not knowing a soul and very unsure about the next two weeks. I knew it would be hot, I knew I packed Valium for the 9 hour flight (over water, eek!) and I knew I probably wouldn’t be feasting on the finest cuisine. Throughout the trip planning, I learned we would be working all over Ecuador, traveling every two or three days to new sites, and providing medical care and health education to the poor. I was prepared, I had practiced doing dental varnishing, I had all my vaccinations, I was ready to make new friends, I was ready to learn about life in Ecuador, I was prepared to give… give my time, energy, skills, smile for the next twelve days.
That two weeks in Ecuador changed my life, it changed the way I looked at the world I live in, WE live in. So here’s what I did while I was there is a nutshell: I helped treat little kids with worms coming out of their legs. I slept on a mattress made of hay. I saw the same stream of water being utilized for drinking, for fishing, for bathing, and for washing laundry. I walked in a mall with snipers positioned at the entrance. I puked and crapped more during those two weeks than I thought was humanly possible, all because I brushed my teeth once from a faucet. I took two minute showers with freezing cold water. My sleep was interrupted every night by gun shots. I rode on one-lane roads with absolutely no pavement covered in dirt and holes. But disregard all that, because here is what the people of Ecuador did for me: I learned gratitude… think about a time when you did something nice for someone, and the look of thankfulness they gave to you. Now multiply that by a thousand and you can begin to imagine how genuinely appreciative they were. I have never felt so valued in my entire life. I will also never complain about another meal in my life. I learned courage… I once read “Life begins were your comfort zone ends.” Every aspect of that trip challenged me, from going to another country not knowing a soul, to zip-lining through the Amazon rainforest, to getting into a cab not knowing great Spanish and asking for the nearest KFC. Since then, for the first time in my life, I truly feel I can do anything. I learned wealth… the fact that I have clean water, concrete floors, paved roads, safe schools and food at my fingertips makes me extremely wealthy. I’ll never get discouraged at the amount on my paycheck every two weeks; I know that number I see is way more than most of the people we served will see for years.
Like I said, I was prepared to give. What I was not prepared for, was to receive. To receive a new way of thinking about the world. To receive a new appreciation for where I was born. To receive a new passion about giving to those that are truly less fortunate. To receive a new confidence in myself and the power of one person. I was not prepared for my entire view of myself, my work, my life to be transformed. Every day I am so much more thankful, aware, generous and happy because of those two weeks. So please, if you are in the habit of putting on your rose-colored glasses, tuck those away and put on your bifocals because you’re missing out on a lot.
PLEASE do something. Do something for someone else. Go somewhere. Go somewhere outside of your comfort zone. Pray for someone. Pray for those who are willing to go and serve.
Hebrews 13:16 “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
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