Today we worked all day at a medical clinic in Rheenendal - an outlying small town with a large informal settlement and a very small clinic to service the area. We were asked to come by a nurse who works there, Connie. I have never seen such cheerful, high energy enthusiasm for a job as her! Today she saw 105 patients in an 8 hour shift. She deals with chronic disease in the township - Aids, Tuberculosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy and asthma being extremely common. I never saw her do anything but run all day long and being pulled in different directions all the time. Her energy never flagged and she berated us all the way home for taking a lunch break with the highest good humor. We laughed for 40 minutes the whole distance back into town. How does someone do this!?
We worked in a freezing cold little examination room - theTB room, and hour after hour we heard stories of lives devastated by poverty, lack of opportunity of every kind, violence,rape and childhood traumas and abuse.
We have been noticing on this trip all the “temptations,” with which we are faced. One is the temptation to go to despair and hopelessness in the face of this endless tide of human suffering and misery. This particular temptation leads to burn out, exhaustion and fatigue and I have noticed that it is because I am looking to see a difference externally. I have to remember, over and over again, that my job is only to sow seeds of love and compassion, never to reap the harvest or even question what the outcome might be.
My work is to stay internally focused on being open, receptive, fully present and as loving as possible. Then I do not despair, or get overwhelmed at the enormity of the problem. If I lose my internal focus and become externally focused, I want to go to problem solving, planning, controlling, starting programs, and changing the system, instead of loving the people and helping them be present to themselves with compassion. It is all that is required.
Charisse calls it dropping pebbles - we have to drop pebbles and not even notice if there are ripples - or how far they spread. We don’t have time for this. We just have to keep dropping pebbles, sowing seeds and doing our own inner work. We hear over and over again that these stories have NEVER been spoken about before and we experience the peoples’ relief at just being heard. We know and have faith, that if something shifts internally through expressing old pain and being heard, respected and loved, all people have the power to change their own lives, reach out to help one another and create their own systems for change and growth.