For several days now, I’ve mulled over the notes in my journal; the one I kept during my week volunteering at a medical mission in the Mayan village of Red Bank, in Belize, and I keep coming back to the same phrase spoken by nurse Judy Krieg, our contact in Belize.
This is Judy, always giving to others.
We call her “The Mother Theresa/Indiana Jones of Belize.” One of the first pieces of advice she gave to all eleven nurses from Orange County and myself was, “Open your heart first if you want to help.” During orientation, she described how we should approach Mayan women and their children. “Look that mother in the eye and touch her child,” she said. “She will remember you if you give her your undivided attention, and that makes all the difference in the mother and her child’s life.”
So why am I writing about Judy’s comment rather than sharing our travel adventures, beautiful accommodations at Belizean Dreams in Hopkins Village,
Xunantunich archeological site and Thatch Caye magical island resort? Because I want to focus on one aspect only, and that is what happened to change my thought process.
I realized that all mothers are the same despite our differences in skin color and level of education. A mother is a mother, even if she doesn’t know her child’s birthday. The love she feels for her child is universal. During a brief moment, my eyes locked with a Mayan mother cradling her sick five-year-old daughter. The tiny girl reminded me of a doll. Her long eyelashes looked sticky and sealed shut; her yellow dress clung to her skinny chest and limbs like a wet rag. Was it the humidity or a fever? I watched the mother pull back wet strands of dark hair glued to scabs around her daughter’s nostrils. For one brief second, the mother and I had a rare connection. I felt intense love for her and the child and then I had to turn away. I started to cry.
A four-month-old little boy. He was the chubbiest of all the kids I saw. Adorable.
I have a wonderful life, and there I was staring at a Mayan mother, who might lose a child to disease or malnutrition. My kids are getting an education and have food. This woman is doing the best she can, and I felt ashamed to be judging her as uneducated and “inferior,” to me. I realized that I was simply lucky to be born with the life I have. Why me and not her?
The island of Ambergris Caye where my family lived from 2004-2005 seemed different, or perhaps it’s my outlook that has changed. Have you experienced a complete change in how you perceive a place after coming back?