I awoke Tuesday morning feeling much better. The intravenous fluids, the hyperbaric chamber, and the drugs worked wonders! Looking back at the previous day, I realized that I should have been more concerned. I was not. Despite my total lack of Spanish and my vulnerable condition, I was treated with great care and compassion. I recollected how the tour guide had asked the manager of the hotel to check on me while they were out on tour; how the manager recognized that I needed a doctor, and he had called one for me; how the doctor and resident tended to me professionally; and how the ambulance drivers, nurses and caregivers at the clinic saw an individual in need, and they responded with skill and kindness. Perhaps, it was indeed the fact that I did not speak any Spanish that I fully engaged with each of my caretakers. I watched their every movement; I read their eyes and their facial expressions, their smiles and their concern. Is this not the way we are meant to meet one another?
As a privileged person from a privileged society, I know I take too many things for granted. How often do I make the opportunity to give others my full and undivided attention? I hustle and bustle creating my “To Do List.” So much to do, so little time, I multi-task. I scan my emails while fielding questions from family members; I fold laundry while on conference calls at home; I listen to podcast while during chores, all in the name of efficiency, but at what cost? In our rushed culture how often are we intentionally being fully present to others; in our hurried lifestyle, do we put our accomplishments above relationships? I wonder how much of my busyness is a need to validate self-importance at the expense of missing the real value of creating a meaningful encounter.
My unplanned excursion to the small Peruvian clinic proved to be a highlight of my journey. I was a stranger in their midst. I was ill, and they cared for me. They treated me with compassion, and I responded with trust. I will remember the IV nurse, who signed to me her plan; I will remember the gracious aide who brought me tea and toast; and I will remember the nurse’s aide who joined me in laughter when the supersized hospital pants I was wearing fell to the floor. I will always remember my detour on the road to Machu Picchu, and the humanity I was shown by strangers. Is this, our humanity, not the grace of divinity we share with one another? We are all children of God, and God is in all of us. We have the choice in our everyday actions to recognize this truth and act accordingly.
Liz, her husband, and her daughter are all Stonehill graduates. Liz’s ties to the Congregation deepened after tragedy struck on 9/11, with the loss of her husband. Her mission to transcend evil through offering light and hope to those in dire need found a home through the Congregation’s work in Peru. Check out this article to learn more about Liz.