Yeah yeah yeah, ok—so I’m living the dream. I’m finally doing work that makes me feel alive. I have alignment with the things that are important to me…I’m living with purpose…I’m leaning in…blah, blah, blah. Truth is, this sh*t is hard.
For years, I’ve wanted to be a humanitarian relief worker. I wanted to go where the need is great. Serve cross-culturally. Feed the hungry. Give medicine to the sick and water to the thirsty. I wanted “in” the hard-to-crack world of humanitarian aid. And here I am. I’m in and I’m humbled by just how challenging this really is.
I won’t go on a rant about long hours, cold showers or mosquito bites in uncomfortable places but I will say this dream of mine has put my mental acuity to the test.
Yes, I expected less than stellar living conditions and interesting team dynamics but I did not expect the degree of introspection needed to make it to the end of each week mentally and emotionally unscathed. Not to mention the wits required to make it through physically.
The sheer volume of risks, lurking dangers and impending disasters make it difficult to focus on any one thing. Last week, there was an earthquake, three typhoons spinning in the ocean nearby and a reminder of how the entire team was sick last year this time with dengue fever.
This week I witnessed the different standards of care for the sick as I frantically tried to access medical treatment for my ill coIleague. I learned very quickly just how real the threat of infectious disease is for me, my staff and the community we serve. I also watched in horror as a mother wept for her son slowly comprehending that life and death hung in the balance for him.
Is this my dream? Uhhh, no, I don’t think so. Or is it?
Dreams by definition are about achieving a new reality. One that is usually steeped in new freedoms, greater opportunities and more pleasures. The irony here is that my dream is best expressed when others become more free or somehow suffer just a little bit less. This is what brings me joy. Not the laughing and giggling kind of joy you hope never ends but the lasting peace-of-mind giving joy that makes life in this world more bearable and even enjoyable.
So I guess when I stood in the hospital corridor consoling a barely five foot tall Filipina woman I had just met a few hours ago and earnestly praying to God in unison for her son and my co-worker, I was indeed living the dream.