A drop in the ocean still starts a ripple

Therese Murphy

Last night at dinner, I shared my rapidly growing and deeply aching worry that the work we are doing feels like a drop in the ocean compared to the expansive need that we see in front of us. It doesn’t feel like enough. Enfermera Thy then said something that I held with me throughout my day. She said to look for the little things, the small bursts of life you might just miss if you aren’t looking. Ever the insomniac, I was predictably awake early this morning thinking about this conversation. I made it my goal to soak up each moment for all that it was worth. 

This mission started at 3 am, with my eyes closed in a place far from home. I listened as a single bird song grew with the morning into a larger chorus of many birds. When my alarm finally went off, I would have believed someone who told me there were 100 birds singing outside my window just for me. A single voice had grown into many. 

At La Ciudad de la Esperanza, one of my first patients was isolated under the COVID tent. Although she was only there to accompany her son to his appointment, it soon became clear that she suffered from chronic pain, most often presenting itself as a never-ending headache. Much of her day-to-day life is spent doing manual labor, making sure her community has filtered water that is safe to drink. Deb, our magical Physical Therapist, promptly put on her gown, gloves, and face shield. Within 10 minutes, her hands had provided my patient with relief from a pain she thought was there to stay. Deb then taught my patient’s son how to do the same thing, passing along the gift of comfort. This moment, although smaller and less dramatic than most, radiated in all directions. A small thing making a big difference.

Similarly, joy blew through the triage tent in the form of a young boy with a bright blue lollipop in his mouth, hugging Kristen’s leg and refusing to let go. Happiness was found in a vision screening when a woman got a pair of glasses that would make her detailed work much easier on her eyes. Love was glowing in the eyes of a grandmother there with her whole family, her face full of pride. Gratitude ran out of the clinic with a tiny boy and a new toothbrush, flashing his freshly cleaned smile. Peace settled with the haze over the clinic as our last patient of the day slowly walked through the front gates with her new medication clutched in her hand. This is what today gave to me. 

It is my hope that we are able to give even an ounce of what we receive.  I know we are all striving to use our skills, knowledge, and love for this beautiful community to help provide good healthcare. But, I also hope that we can be just as successful in reflecting back to them the same joy, gratitude, and peace that they give to us.

All of these moments are small, yes. But just like a single bird turning into a complete chorus, I do believe that these little drops of life, health, and community start ripples that can make changes to even the largest ocean. 

My mission today ended with my eyes closed in a place that now felt like home. Thank you, Guatemala.


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