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Changing and Helping

Changing and Helping

Saigon feels like it was a lifetime ago. Though our service week has concluded and all has been said and done, I do not feel like I am a different person now than I was before. I was outside of my comfort zone for several days and I have seen sights and thought ideas that I never could have imagined, but I do not feel like I have changed. This entire experience was supposed to be about change, but I still feel very “the same.” I do not feel, with the knowledge and experiences gained from this past week, I would have done anything differently.

Take for example, the first day that I visited Co So 1, the daycare center that at this time last week, I was both dreading and anxious to visit. The instant I walked through their metal gates, I was swarmed by six children, about half my size, with hands outstretched for a shake, smiles stretching halfway across their faces, and voices tuned to different pitches but all spreading the same message of salutations. “HI!” “HELLO!” “HOW ARE YOU?”  I have never quite believed that you could love another person without knowing something about them, but if it was not love, I really, really liked these children. All of the fears and anxieties that I harbored before I walked through those gates, I shed like a raincoat after the sun finally bursts through the clouds after a morning full of rain. Their smiles, laughs, and the joy they got from just us walking through their doors was more than enough to make a believer out of me.

Their happiness was enough to warm me up to the situation, but I still do not think I have changed as a person.

Over the next week, I visited the daycare center a handful of times. Each day I spent there, I learned that much more about the children, the staff, and the community that those two previous elements had come together to create. I was amazed just how normal these children are. Though I thought I had learned my lesson before, that though these people may be disabled they are people nonetheless, but I was still surprised at just how ordinary they would come to be in my eyes. There’s ­­­Thanh, who though he only has the use of one hand, can outshoot any of the other boys in basketball. There’s also Hai, who though his fingers and toes are fused together, is one of the smartest children at the center and has learned, through perseverance, to ride a bike to and from school. These boys and all of the other children share so many characteristics in common with ordinary playground kids. However, like any playground, there are also the bullies. The older and more able-bodied kids would take all they could get, manifesting childish greed as well as any other ordinary ten year old child could. Previously, I had only thought that these children with disabilities could only impress me with their good behaviors. Little did I know that it was their maladaptive behaviors could show me so much more.

Their misbehavior shocked me into seeing them as children, complete with the bad as well as the good, but I still do not think that I have changed as a person.

I do not lament that I have not changed. In retrospect, I was not anxious to change, I was anxious to experience new things. Living in the fortunate circumstances that we do in America, it becomes so easy to get comfortable – to think that everything, everywhere is okay as long as it does not deal directly with me. From my experiences over the past week, I have not changed as a person, but I changed how I view the world. I am no longer anxious about this particular situation, but I would still be such in a comparable situation in the future. Overall, this experience was not about changing, it was about helping. And help I did.


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