The start of 2021 was full of first time experiences for me. I have traveled to many countries in my 39 years on this Earth. All of my traveling up to this point has been in the pursuit of leisure with my closest family and friends. This was the first time I have ever traveled abroad without knowing a single person in the group I would be traveling with. Pretty scary for a guy who suffers from social anxiety!! It also was the first time I have dedicated vacation time with the intent of helping others rather than myself. The trip was organized by Mission Bible Church in Minooka, IL. We were headed to Haiti, which is actually the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I didn't realize this until the trip was over and I was back home Googling facts. Due to COVID we were working with about half as many people than normal. Our group was a small but mighty 15 volunteers. Our focus was on construction projects at a nearby orphanage of about 40 children ranging from newborns to early 20's. A handful of the children were able bodied but the majority were discarded like garbage by their family, do to their physical abnormalities or disabilities. In Haiti, this is a common thing which was very surprising and also saddening to hear.
For anyone that shops with us at DNA you know how active the majority of our employees are. We are extremely passionate about trying new things and pushing our limits. We also love to encourage our customers to try new things and reach new heights. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone gain confidence by achieving something they previously thought to be impossible. Going into the trip I felt compelled to focus my attention on the children at the house with the greatest disabilities. I wasn't sure what I would do, or how I would do it, but I knew I was going to find a way to challenge their body and minds and hopefully put a smile on their faces. I quickly realized my love of sports was a great place to start.
Some children were unable to talk or move on their own. Others had the ability to communicate but lacked the ability to walk or use both of their arms. Still, I knew that if their eyes lit up when I showed them a ball, or carried them to the nearby swing set, there was potential for growth. I was later told that many of the children I worked with had never been on the swing set before or kicked a ball. I guess I have always felt that if someone shows the slightest interest, then it is worth exploring their potential. It was an amazing feeling seeing the smiles on their faces as they would throw or kick the ball to me. I'm not sure they were smiling because they loved trying something new or they were happy someone looked past their disabilities and gave them a shot to try! Either way it was an amazing experience to be a part of!
This was a trip of a lifetime and hopefully makes for great reading, but what can we take away from this? My question to all of us is what limitations do we set on ourselves? I know I am not the only anxiety sufferer. How many times have you missed out on opportunities because you were scared or felt it was not something you would be able to do or wouldn't have enough control? These kids have no choice but to wait until someone sees potential in them before they can flourish. Due to their need for around the clock care they will always be at the will of others. What is stopping us then? I believe in many cases, we are the only ones standing in our own way. My challenge to all of us, myself included, is to look beyond limitations, give new things a try, and instead of saying "why", think to yourself "why not"!