Sunday, July 23, 2006

Home now...Some final thoughts

OK, I am home now. I put my kids on a plane to Michigan and they met their Mom up there where they will rest and relax while I hold down the fort here alone. I should have some time for blogging. It is actually not bad to have a few weeks by yourself - it lets you spend time doing stuff that would otherwise be impossible. It gets kind of dull after a while, however.

Anyhow, I am still a little sore from the week. My arms are burned, as is my neck (despite my best efforts). In all, I think the week was a success. I saw a side of my kids that I wasn't sure was there. They worked with little complaint from 8AM to 5PM in the sweltering southern Mississippi sun. We built 1 3/4 sheds for people, and the second definitely was easier than the first. When asked if they enjoyed the week, the kids were all positive. I am quite glad we brought J's friend along with us - he was bigger, stronger, and his dad had done more work like this with him before, so he was a big help.

I am not sure if it really hit home that this was as bad of a disaster as it was. It is really easy to put up barriers in our minds and just do the job that we have to do and not personalize it. As a doctor I am a professional at not personalizing things (I would go crazy if I didn't). But I think there is good reason to personalize things at times. We need to be thankful for the good things we have and need to know there is nothing that we can take for granted on this world. We are extremely lucky people to have all of the things we do, although sometimes I wonder if it doesn't let us get too soft. I can tell you right now that this will become a family tradition. Maybe we won't go to the same place - I would love for them to go to a third-world country some time and see real poverty. It had a huge effect on me when I saw it first-hand.

Probably the most amazing thing about this whole trip is that people do quite well when faced with adversity. The people who were pushed out of their homes have just made due with what they had. Their lives have changed a lot, but they don't seem bitter about it - perhaps even less whiney than we usually are. When you get faced with these tough things, you tend to get a better perspective and the little annoyances in life don't bother you as much. I know this was true for us when we were helping them. We were hot and being bitten by bugs, but whereas they would have complained loudly at home, the kids did what they had to do.

I don't feel like this was a "noble" thing for me to do - it was the right thing to do. I see no nobility in doing what is best for my kids. That is not a sacrifice. I have many more memories than I would have had from a cruise or a week at the beach. My emotions are much more grounded and I feel ready to go back to work now, even though I worked hard last week. This is not just theory, it is real. You do far better when you take your eyes off of yourself and help other people. I know I often get caught in a rut of "keeping score" as to how my life is going. Well, the best way to counter that is to give more without expectation of getting something in return. It is far better to give than to receive.