It seems serendipitous that the end of the Narnaul mission coincided with the end of the year. This time of year has always been a time of reflection and renewal for me, and this mission has greatly assisted in allowing me to reflect on what is personally important.
So, this last blog entry is dedicated to reflections on what I experienced, reminders of what is important and renewal of my commitments to service.
1. Honor Family
In the ward with the patients, there appeared to be “blurry lines” between who was family and who was a new friend or simply a visitor. To an outsider, it appeared that each person was given the respect of being an extension of the patient. I was reminded that family extends to those who share our common values, concerns and dreams, and not just those who share DNA. The comfort of being part of this community gave me a sense of relief and calm.
2. Have a common goal
Amazing results occur when all are focused on one common goal. As Rotarians we tend to emphasize the goals of Rotary which unite us in activities both locally and internationally. In Narnaul, we were 24 individuals who came together for the common purpose of providing support and services to those who presented themselves at the door of the Vijay Hospital. Prior to our arrival, there was little time for “team development”. We were unified under the umbrella of Rotaplast. We understood our roles and performed accordingly. Through this, we coalesced as a team, totally committed to restoring smiles.
3. Be Resourceful
Sometimes I think that I am not even aware of how easy it is to find what I need, when I need it! I can go to my computer and simply bring up the information that I desired regarding almost anything. I can jump in my car to get where I need to go! The families with whom I engaged in Narnaul were not as easily connected! While many have phones, most were reliant on walking or public transportation to get to their destination. Many of these families had traveled 3 to 15 hours to reach the hospital, with no guarantee that their child would be accepted. In talking with the families, they depended on a notification on the side of a bus, an ad in the newspaper, a call from a friend or What’s App to find out about Rotaplast.
4. Have Trust
Watching families who willingly handed their children over to the Rotaplast team members, renewed my faith that we are all part of a greater humanity and are willing to work together towards a better world, when we trust each other.
5. Maintain Effective communication
Being able to communicate is not limited to speaking the same language. Daily, I was reminded that oral language is not the only way to get your message across to your listener! As parents entered the hospital trying to find their place in the ward, or the series of activities that needed to be performed before their child went into surgery, communication was limited to making eye contact and physically guiding them to the next station. The feelings of care, concern, anticipation, and empathy were evident, without one word spoken. Imagine sitting with a family, whose three month old baby is having surgery for the first time to correct her cleft lip or palette. Without one word of Hindi, and a gentle smile, you are able to calm nerves and lend support. Eye contact, hand-holding, and a warm embrace easily translated to “sincerity and understanding.”
6. Have Hope
I was taken aback when I realized that so many of these families had experienced years of waiting for the time and opportunity to have surgery for their child. Many were returning for additional medical intervention hoping that this would be the final surgery for their child. In other situations there were the young men who could not leave their job or family and had to wait years to be finally get the service and support. In the meantime, they lived with their disfigurement due to a motorcycle accident or a gas light explosion. What about the mother who struggled with wanting to have more children, fearing that all her babies would be born with the same medical issues. The ability for these individuals and families to be focused on the long term goals of medical intervention gave new meaning for perseverance and hope.
7. Be Flexible
Things don’t always go as we want them to! Let’s say there is a change of schedule! There is an unexpected “hurdle” to climb. You can’t get what you want in the time frame that you need. We need to be reminded that there is always an alternative method of accomplishing the task, including accepting the presenting fate! About 50% of the families who traveled to Narnaul for intervention could not be accepted. Simply put, Rotaplast has specific perimeters under which they function and have expertise. When the potential client did not meet the criteria, they were rejected. The strength with which these families accepted this adjustment was a lesson for us all. Be flexible and patient, your time will come.
8. Be Grateful
“Thank you” What a simple phrase that speaks volumes in any language! How often do we forget to extend our gratitude to those who have influenced us? Who have helped us through a challenging time in our life? Who have supported us with a kind act or word just at that right moment? There was not a day that went by when acts of gratitude or words of thanks were not showered on each of us for doing what we came to do! How many times did we witness tears of thanks from parents as they saw their child’s faces transformed ? How many glances did we witness as our patients with crippling burns were amazed at their new found physical flexibility? How many times did we thank each other for the opportunity to renew our commitment to each other and the opportunity to give back?
Eight days of magic! Eight days of reflection and reminders of what encourages our personal renewal!
Let me give one more reminder for the road. In the words of Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, “SHARE EVERYTHING.”
Please share the message of Rotaplast …a message of hope and possibility for others! Happy New Year!