culture, inspiration, lifestyle, medicine, nursing, travel

We’re Not So Different After All

With political chaos in full fledge and debates related to abortion, vaccination, police brutality, racial conflict, religion, human rights, walls and so much more resulting in cities being burned down and shotguns pulled it’s hard to feel connected in our own country- let alone those who neighbor us. This is not a political post. This is not a debate. This is an observation. An observation of just how “not so different” we all are in a world of systems that tell us we are.

In February, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Mexico as a nurse to help children living with heart disease. In my one single week immersed in families and communities of these towns, I found just how relentless love and human kindness is. I also found how relentless hardship, poverty, and social status is. I found how regardless of the barriers that work to separate us, it is impossible to remain detached.

We’re not so different after all.

Our van pulled in the first morning of work to a small gated clinic connected to a hospital. A mass amount of families waited outside of the clinic for the doors to open. They held blue babies in their arms, a sheet wrapped around. They contained their toddlers energy, and gathered their school age children playing with clay balls in the streets. They ruffled through the paperwork they were ordered to have filled out. Their eyes lit up, their smiles lifted. They waited to meet the “American Doctors” that could save their child’s life if chosen. They held their little ones close. They prayed for a cure-for help. They would do ANYTHING for their children.

We’re not so different after all.

Clinic days were long for staff, but far longer for the families waiting to see them. Mothers, fathers, and grandparents from all over the country brought their children at the break of dawn, and some weren’t seen until the sun set. They rocked their children in their laps, they fed them via breast or bottle, they tucked their shirts in and pulled their dresses down. They kept them busy, and dealt with the mental breakdowns when the hours lasted longer than the distraction tools. They waited. They never complained once. They never viewed the considerable amount of time it took for their child to be seen as “wasted”. They grew weary, but they never grew ungrateful. Their children meant the world to them, and they had been through harder days with them- or maybe soon would.  A parent is a parent is a parent.

We’re not so different after all.

The children in Mexico living with heart disease are utter walking miracles- there is no way around it. Their bodies have had no choice but to adapt to the significant defects they live with- defects that in America are fixed days after birth. I watched a child be told that his heart was doing great for now, and that he could come back in three years to check again. Out of pure relief the entire family started crying. The dad wiped his eyes before his son could see him weeping. Less than 20 minutes later I watched a family be told that their child’s heart was too complex and surgery would inevitably invite death sooner. There was nothing that could be done. Even the “best doctors in the world” could not help this child. Their family stayed silent. They comforted their exhausted daughter, and told her she could play or she could sleep or she could do whatever made her happiest and most comfortable. Their eyes emitted pain and doubt. In silence they planned the unknown remainder of their daughters life. Joy, grief, life, and death are forces unmatched. They come and they go, and sometimes no matter who is on your team, they are unavoidable.

We’re not so different after all.

Language barriers are hard. SO hard. As human beings, our foundation of connection is built off of understanding one another. Understanding one another on a deeper level is already hard with technology and social media taking away from the capture of real life conversations. We enter into an entirely new field of hard when we literally do not understand what the other person is saying. I took my week to genuinely try to learn the language around me. I felt foreign beyond belief. I tried to listen, and I tried to respond. I work 12 hour shifts at night, and yet being surrounded by a language other than my own was the most thoroughly exhausted my brain has ever been. The kicker- I never felt MORE connected to human beings in my life. For a grand majority of interactions I had to rely on nonverbal communication. I had to attempt to understand what people were saying in unique ways. I had to remain creative and open in all interactions at all times. Satisfaction, appreciation, sorrow, and anger were all expressed through different measures- and yet without those words even being said I was able to understand. Sometimes we understood each other via words, most times we didn’t but there was never a disconnection in raw communication. In fact, there was larger room for a connection.

We’re not so different after all.

In my one week I was immersed in various cultures. I was immersed in the wealthy and I was immersed in the poor. I was offered to spend time at fancy pools and extravagant dinners with important governmental and health official figures (which I was very much grateful for, might I add). I was also driven to those fancy pools and extravagant dinners by those of lower social status that worked for the health officials and governmental figures. The invisible border built between the social classes is almost more prominent than the physical border between countries. Just as America works, those with less money and less status are naturally valued as the lesser. Those of higher status triumph over their abilities to help the poor, yet it is the “rich Americans” that are invited to dinner over their own hard working employees. While I ate fresh octopus off of a silver platter, the driver drank a bottle of barely affordable water in the van. This is a world spread issue. Not a country wide issue.

We’re not so different after all.

I am not saying that we are not different at all. For one week I lived in a world where the water was unsafe to brush my teeth with, houses and buildings were in ruins, health care resources were scarce, meat and produce were bought from families at a morning market, and stranger or not you were getting a hug (let’s make that last one a new American norm please). There are differences- some small, some large. To say there aren’t would be naive of me. But for one week I also lived in a world where families went unmeasurable distances for health and happiness, some children played and some children unfairly awaited their last days, and money and politics shaped the prosperous nature of individuals lives.

Learn from one another. Agree to disagree. Engage in conversation that you might agree or disagree, and instead of only exhaling your own viewpoint take a second to inhale the other viewpoint. Walk with every culture you are invited into, and take that perspective you gained from one to help another. Stop looking at your phone to avoid conversation on the subway with those you assume you won’t understand- you may understand them more than those who speak your own language. There is so much more to life than the differences that reside in race, religion, and economic status. When you find yourself closed off due to differences with another being, remember that maybe, just maybe, we’re not so different after all.

Light & love.

1 thought on “We’re Not So Different After All”

  1. I LOVE this!!! So beautifully written!! This was such a meaningful trip and I love that you have shared this trip through your eyes and heart!!!

    Like

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