“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return but because of who you are.” – Mother Teresa
Emory’s Kingston Nursing Team arrived in Jamaica last night. We began the morning with mass at the Bethlehem Center, one of the many homes run by Missionaries of the Poor. We were greeted with open arms (literally) from all the children and a very warm welcome from the priest and congregation. Mass was filled with both joy and reflection, complimented by music, clapping, and dancing. A little boy born without legs and one arm, hit the tambourine against his shoulder with rhythm and pure joy on his face. Everyone from all walks of life were invited to find hope and encouragement, reminding us to include God in our plans for the new year, with open hearts to change and growth. The team reflected this evening on how grateful we were to be introduced to the community in such an inclusive manner. We will be visiting the center again tomorrow to begin serving the community, but today they served us. It is warm here in Kingston, and we say that in more ways than one. With a temperature of 81 and 100% chance of hugs, our cheeks and hearts are quite warm indeed.
Walk Good (translation – “take care/stay safe” in Jamaican Patois).
This morning we began with a short orientation at Jesus Redeemer before driving back to the same place we were for mass yesterday. We split up between Bethlehem House, which is where the children live, and Lord’s Place, the home to over 120 women and a few men across the driveway from Bethlehem House. Upon arrival, we were instructed to pair up with certain brothers, who showed us one example of a task and let us carry out the rest. We assisted with morning feedings, provided respiratory treatments with nebulizers, and performed range of motion with lotion massages. Many of the children are impacted by cerebral palsy, genetic disorders, neural tube defects, and mild to severe cognitive delays. But, their spirits are not so challenged. Today many of us witnessed the boy I mentioned yesterday with only one arm and no legs carefully feeding Cheetos to the boy in the crib next to him. These kids may be small but, emotionally speaking, their hearts are big.
At noon, the brothers invited us to midday prayer, as part of volunteering is participating in their way of life. This prayer time allowed for reflection and rejuvenation to continue serving. As the day proceeded, we cleaned and bandaged wounds- pressure sores, cracked skin, and tinea – and helped sort pharmaceuticals into daily capsules so medications will be timely and organized for the week. Towards the end of the day we painted nails, which is a huge thrill for many at the women’s center.
There’s a woman at Lord’s Place, we’ll call her “Patty” for anonymity. She is so loved by all of the other women because she has decided to spend her life serving them, even though she herself is one of them who lives at Lord’s Place. She’s so active in service, that, at first, I thought she was a Jamaican volunteer. There’s a quote on the altar I saw at mass yesterday. It reads, “True happiness is serving the poor.” Patty is one very upbeat, joyful woman. She has needs too, medically and physically, but she is better off than many, so she gives- all day long.
We all have challenges, sorrows, and weaknesses, and I can’t help but wonder how different our lives – our world – would be if we all approached one another as Patty does, giving and sharing what blessings we do have. Every person on this Kingston Team of ours is striving to be like Patty this week, making every effort to share our gifts with this community, upholding the dignity of every person, as we nurses are called to do.
The Kingston Team