The Gift of Volunteering
The truck is old, mostly open air, dusty, oh so dusty, and the truck bed, where we ride, has no padding, just the cushion our respective derrieres offer us. We volunteers love that truck, and if one has trouble getting in over the tailgate, well we just put out a hand and pull whomever up. The truck driver, who is also our interpreter and guide, asks, everyone set? Okay, off we go. Bumping down the dirt roads that lead to the villages where we teach, wind in our hair, sun on our faces, dust flying everywhere, something new and wonderful fills each one of us. We hold on tight and laugh over the biggest bumps, point out the flowers or mountains to make sure we all see the beauty, wave at people walking along, carrying babies, or bundles of stalks for their brooms, or just walking: to work, to their home, to the store. All wave back, smiling.
This daily ride is our norm, and we quickly, before we know it, accept it, never once thinking about how we are used to traveling. A fancy car would not fit here, and we so much want to fit into our new home away from home. Volunteers hear such things as oh the people have so little, you will come to appreciate all you have and you can do so much for them. You just have no idea how other people live. These thoughts never come into our heads. We know we are blessed to be able to be here in the villages outside of Chaing Mai,Thailand, and we are forever grateful to be welcomed as part of the life we see around us.
We go to many schools but today we are going to the orphanage, where we teach for four days. I will do the health unit, cleaning cuts, putting on antiseptic and band aids, brushing teeth, and keeping hands clean. I never once think oh my these poor people. I am just excited to be here and to be able to help. I seem to attract all the little boys, who are silly and wiggly and just plain too cute and too much fun. We pretend our ears are cut, or our noses are cut, or our heads. I am the doctor and the children must come to my office.
They have walked, with their cut. When I see the child, of course, I must say, oh my, oh no, what happened? Oh your poor ear, or nose or whatever. I am exaggerated, hands to mouth, gasping at the supposed wound. We wash our hands with wipes, then we wash out the cut, as I say, oh me oh my, how did this ever happened, tisking away. Once we are done, then comes the band aids, and though there are not the pretty colored ones, the children love to have them put on their supposed sore, in all the silly places I could find for someone to get a cut. Our teeth are brushed so well, singing brush a brush a brush, with the new Ipana, a silly old commercial song that helps with the circular motion that reaches the gums and cleans the teeth better. When we are done, of course we take pictures.
Mama, mama, you come back. Oh, yes, next Saturday. I promise. And I do, for all the Saturdays I am volunteering. I learn that I must bring all the love I have to bring for the time I am there. Pity does not help, but laughter and fun, with hugs all around brings a piece of stability and a bit of trust to the children, which helps them go on another day.
I did not know this was what volunteering was like. I could never have guessed. It is more than magical. It is a miracle that unfolds and a piece of you that you have not met yet, comes to call. It is my hope by sharing more stories that more people will be come interested and decide to have an adventure of a lifetime. It will touch your soul with a grace that cannot be put into words.