Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A New Perspective

I am hesitant as I write this. Part of me wants to tell this story because if I were at home in California, surfing the internet, I would want to read a blog post about a woman volunteering at an orphanage in China. But there are guidelines about us volunteering there and one of them is, "Do not publish any articles on your observation of, or work at the orphanage". Since I am a rule follower, by nature, you see why I am torn. I will keep my comments less specific and try to convey my feelings. I hope the message comes across.

When I came to China it was a goal of mine to volunteer at an orphanage. I don't know why, as I am not particularly  someone who searches for opportunities like this. Of course, I try to serve my fellow men but, in the past, that has been people similar to me and those that I know. There has been a piece of me who has felt that the way I spend my spare time, here in China, is a test. I have been compelled to use my spare time in the best ways possible. I am not always successful at this. (see previous post about entertainment)

I began asking around at church if anyone knew how to go about volunteering at an orphanage. A woman told me about a volunteer organization that is "allowed" to go and volunteer at a  government run orphanage about thirty minutes away from the city. I contacted the coordinator, that was over a month ago. I was scared, but knew it was something I needed to do. I still did not know why.

Coordinating my first visit was not easy. Since the coordinators are volunteers I was passed back and forth to different people, many times not getting information I needed. Each Wednesday I cleared my schedule, only to find out that I didn't know where to go or what time. I was beginning to get frustrated and thought, more than a few times, that it was just not going to work out. I was being tempted to ditch the plan because it was too hard. 

I began to get solid details about where and when to meet this past Wednesday morning. I even had the meeting place in my taxi book (here the taxi drivers do not speak or read English, so having the Chinese characters helps insure your arrival). I made it to the meeting place in perfect time, only to soon find out I was at the wrong lobby and where I needed to be was a 15 minute walk away. I am so grateful I exchanged cell phone numbers with one of the other people I was going with. I still was ready to give in. I even said to the person on the phone, "It seems like it won't work out for today. I don't want to hold you up. Let's try again for next week." Now that I look back, how silly I was to want to give in just because it wasn't going perfectly. I was still scared about the unknown.

But I quickly found my ride and the other two women made me feel very comfortable on the ride out there. It was enjoyable to get to know two women, both from different countries, who just want to give. There are good people everywhere, whether "religious" or not. 

This is where I will not give any details about what I saw or did there, talk to me face to face. But some realizations I made are as follows:
  • It does not take much time at all to touch someone's life. I was only there for two and a half hours and I made a difference in numerous lives. 
  • We do not have to "move mountains". I cannot change the course of life for these children, or even one child there. But I did change those few hours for them.
  • Likewise, I could not look at the big picture. These children, all with medium to severe disabilities, will most likely not be adopted. I had to focus on the joy I was bringing them at that moment. Otherwise I might've turned and run out the door because I couldn't "rescue" them all.
  • Basic necessities are; food, warmth and love. Everything else is extra. Period. We can rationalize how we need this or deserve that, but when the day is done we are incredibly blessed to have all of those other extras.
  • In my thirty-nine many years I have not had one single moment without those basic necessities. Why am I so privileged? Why are others not so privileged? It is easy to slip into feeling guilty. I worked hard to push that away.
  • Similarly, I felt a Spirit and strength from each one of those children, even the tiniest of babies. I felt that God knows each one of them and comforts them. They were happy and smiling, even giggling at me. Their Spirits are special for the circumstances they are in.
  • It only takes a smile to communicate. I do not speak their language. Many of them cannot communicate. However, they can smile and laugh and hug. I will continue to think of their eyes that brightened when I talked to them. I can't wait to see that again next week.
  • I have seen movies and read books about situations like this. That does little to enlighten our lives. Feeling it, smelling it, breathing it, touching it was what changed me as a person. It took me outside of my life, as I have always known it. I was forced  to realize that there are situations, both near and far, that are not what we experience every day. This is what forever changed me. The changes may not be visible on the outside, but my heart is broadened and more empathetic to all who have less privileges than I do.
  • Physical touch is a need.There were moments when my arms were full and both hands were being held. That made them content. I could see the craving of this in them.
  • I have wondered what in the world I needed to experience here in China. I had literally only thought or spoken about China about five times in my entire life before coming here. Perhaps the growth I had yesterday, and will continue to have when I go, is the reason I came here.
  • There are many people who give a lot more time and resources to causes like this. I have always admired them, but never thought I had it in me to dedicate my life to others. After yesterday I can imagine how humanitarian giants are rewarded by their generous efforts.
  • I know that when Christ comes to earth again. Places like where I was yesterday is where He will be. I felt His presence there.

I understand if you think this post is very cliche, sometimes cliches are true. Also, I sincerely hope that it did not come across as boasting or painting myself as some sort of "angel". That is not my intention. My goal was to share the changes that occurred in me throughout this experience. I urge you to go out of your comfort zone, even though it is scary, and give a little of your time to someone who has less than you. You do not need to be in China to do that.


Melanie Portocarrero said...

Ah, what an amazing expereince. I picture you adopting a child from China....

lynne said...

Jen, that is so amazing. I think you did a really good job of describing your impressions without being too specific - and I think that is so amazing that you are really seeking out this experience. It sounds incredible and life-changing.