Sunday, August 1, 2010

An unexpected tearjerker.

In January when the earthquake in Haiti shook the world into action, Embraced too was one of the organizations which, in a small part, helped.  We sent equipment on its way, to hopefully, provide a resource to help to heal all the broken bones, ligaments, and quite possibly, ultimately heal the hearts that were crushed as a result of the destruction.  While we of course were called into immediate action, I knew that when all the rubble was cleared, when the dust settled, we would then, finally see the true reality of this event.
Fast forward a few months, my intern mentions a story about this young Haitian amputee in Atlanta he saw on the news the night before.  He follows through with contacting them.  Before you know it I am across the table from Franz and Guerline.  Guerline, a few years older than me, sat across the table,  missing her left arm.  As many times as I have seen the lack of limbs, it still manages to perplex me.  I secretly hope that it is just my brain playing an optical illusion on my eyes and that if I rub them hard enough that maybe possibly that might restore what is not there.  I hate it because it never does and I want so badly to fix it.
We get through the normal conversation that occurs in Atlanta every August about how hot it is as we excuse the multitude of sweat stains that accrue as a result of just simply existing outside.  I then invite the inevitable but necessary account of why Frantz and Guerline are sitting in front of me rather than back home, in Haiti.  "So- tell me your story" I say.  

I love hearing people's stories.  It is a way for me to somehow transcend into their thoughts, feelings and emotions.  I suppose it is the closest way for me to feel like I actually might be able to understand and might possibly build that bridge that allows me to connect to them.

As Guerline spoke in her native creole tongue,  while understood every third word from my fluency in another latin-based language, I felt every word.  Each and every word piled on my chest- no my heart, like a ton of bricks.  I stared into her eyes, to somehow give her a hug, comfort as she relayed to me the horrific and horrendous series of circumstances which resulted in her, one less arm, sitting in front of me, looking for someone, something to make her whole again.  Tears rolled out of my eyes unexpectedly.

At this moment, I realized why it is that I have spent the last almost two years struggling, trying so hard to get a non-profit off the ground.  It is moments like these that give you the energy and potency to keep persisting, keeping moving forward regardless of the fact that you have no salary, yet.  I take these moments as messages, clues along my journey, hinting to me that I am on the right road, regardless if it is uphill at this moment.

We wrapped up the meeting a little bit changed.  Guerline's face was washed of the hard look that people sometimes get after they have knocked on every door possible, only to receive one rejection after the next.  She smiled after I told her that Embraced will help her, staring into my soul, deliberately saying to me "Merci" as if she not only wanted me to hear it, but rather to feel her gratitude.

I found myself saying "thank you" to her.  Thank you Guerline, for the opportunity to help you.  Thank you for being the one that reminds me just how spectacular and special the act of making someone else's tears my tears, my prayers, and now my mission.

Here I go....

So,  a lot has happened the past two years and like many people, you end up looking back thinking "Man, I never saw that one coming!".  Two years ago, I would have thought it was a joke if you told me that I would not be in medical school but rather challenging myself to start a non-profit at the worst economic time in history.  I always manage to take on these uphill tasks.  Aside from the non profit, I just love challenges in general.  I see them as bench-presses for your spirit and the opportunity to grow.  Of course, they are so entirely uncomfortable, but they also remind you, you are here I am, 26 and trying to make a difference through my non profit, Embraced.  Embraced sets up bins in doctors offices, gyms, therapy clinics etc to collect crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, braces, etc.  We then inventory and redistribute this equipment to individuals in need- both locally and globally.

I have decided to blog about Embraced because it is essentially my baby.  I have birthed this creature and  thus far has been the biggest joy- filled with hilarious moments, sad moments, scary moments, "oh my god, I feel like I am going to throw up and have a nervous breakdown all at the same time" moments and every other possible emotion you could imagine.  While I feel vulnerable exposing that I simply don't have all the answers to everything and also struggle, it is also nice sharing with others, that I too, am human ;)  I laugh at how silly this sounds.  It is so normal to not know the answer to everything, yet, why is it so unacceptable to admit it- why is it seen as a sign of weakness and that somehow people will now think you are not a leader?  Maybe my honesty will make others doubt my capabilities, but I hope rather it teaches me as well as others the wonderful lesson of humility.  Regardless of what illusion of strength or weakness this projects, I am simply trying to make a difference.

Initially, I really did not want a non-profit.  Yep, that is right.  I wanted to be a doctor.  But, when I found out how much perfectly good and usable equipment gets thrown away while people in need literally sit idle because they don't have something as basic as crutches, I could not turn my head.  I wanted to, Ill admit it.  It is so easy to just ignore a problem and brush it off saying "yeah, maybe I will do that when I am established..." .  Which, I respect those that will do something when they are established, but I just tend to subscribe to the "now and here" mentality.  Even though I am 26, there is no guarantee I will be here for a set amount of time.
Not to get morbid- I just think that life is so much richer when you subscribe to the mentality of "carpe diem".

I hope that this series of blogs do not come off as arrogant as if the world should pay ME attention because I (in a long exaggerated cadence) am doing something to help others....I just hope to accomplish a few simple things from this story telling experience.  First, I hope to inspire others to find their passion- whatever it may be.  I hope that through my mess-ups, my raw honesty about all the road bumps and crap that happens, that maybe you will find that "it ain't easy for anyone" and that will help and give you comfort when following your passion becomes, well, uncomfortable.  Secondly, I hope to poke fun and find the humor, the joy and the beauty of this struggle.  This is more of a selfish motivation, but I think that through sharing this journey, I will be able to give myself a break, relax and recollect on the time.  And lastly, as cliche or however "Jack-Handy-like" as it may sound, I really hope that by reading this plethora of babel that maybe, just maybe, you can manage to deduce something and whatever that something may be, that somehow, someway it manages to make you feel a stronger, deeper, connection and appreciation to humanity.  Happy reading.