I just went on a field trip to Casablanca with 15 of the best artists in the orphanage. It was a great experience. We were fed a fantastic lunch (FOR FREE!!!). Then, after walking around the campus of the country club, the kids were given an endless supply of good paper and paint. They painted for two full hours. It is incredible how many people want to give to these kids. This is at least the fourth group that I’ve seen interacting with the kids in a big way–and I have only been here for four weeks. They come from a tough background, but they have an incredible upbringing in this place.
In the time that I’ve been in Peace Corps, I’ve come to solidify I thought process that has been growing on me over the past couple years: “Do not judge someone by their actions (or inactions). Wait until you have the full story.” This idea grew out of my father who told me this story (which I think is from the book, “7 Habits of a Highly Effective Person):
A man working in NYC just finished an 80 hour work-week. He gets on the subway, exhausted, and tries to rest his mind as he goes home. At the next stop, a middle-aged woman enters the subway car with a 2 year old and a 4 year old. She sits down close to the man. When the subway starts moving, the two kids start chasing each other around and screaming when they catch each other. This annoys the man who just wanted a nice trip back home. He notices that the mother is just staring out the window–not paying attention. Then one of the boys knocks over the man’s briefcase and keeps running. This annoys the man so much that he calls out to the woman and tells her to control her kids. She snaps out of her daze and says, “I’m sorry. Their father passed away this evening and…”
Ever since I heard that story, I’ve come to realize that there is little value in first impressions. We all are experiencing our individual struggles. That is how I am getting through today. I am one of four volunteers helping run a camp in Eastern Morocco right now. Tomorrow we will say goodbye to one of the four because his own personal struggle has grown in recent days. It’ll be hard without him, but I know I cannot judge him for it. On the same cord, I woke up feeling rather ill today. In order to be prepared for when there are only three of us, I decided to use this morning to rest and get better. I hope I won’t be too harshly judge for missing a day (though I’ve come to care less and less about what others think about me).
Then I logged onto Facebook this morning. I started talking to a very close friend of mine. She is going through a struggle with her family (the fighting itself sounds like it has a lot to do with judging others when we have no right to judge them). I did my best to listen because that’s really all we can do. When someone is struggling, we can listen. From time to time, you may need to tell someone to snap out of it, but most struggles need little more than a listening ear. Although, I wish I could be there in person to offer better support.
Thank you Dad for teaching me this valuable life lesson.
It seems so unfair. Our family had two dogs as I grew up. Cassidy was the old, larger mutt. Tocina was the younger, smaller pug. When Cassidy passed in November, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. She had survived the cancer far longer than we could have expected. The hardest part was her quick deterioration. I was 1,300 miles away when I got the news. I never got to say goodbye. That was the hardest part. I never remembered to cry. I didn’t cry for her until yesterday–when everything was unleashed.
Tocina was never exactly healthy. She was allergic to so much that we had to make her food out of a strange mixture of oatmeal and turkey. It did her well, but we still had to keep her on steroids her entire life. Considering I will only be gone for 27 months and Tocina is 8 years old, I expected she might still be alive when I get back. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A few months ago, Tocina desperately needed her nails clipped. It was impossible to hold her down. The vet put her under anesthesia to clip them. When she came out of it, she suffered a stroke. She suffered a second stroke a few months later.
My little Tocina has not been the same since then. Then, last week, something started happening. It was a small shake, like she was suffering from Parkinson’s It would only last for a few seconds. But, as the days carried on, it only got worse. Yesterday, it was quite violent and lasted for 10-20 minutes at a time. She was losing control of her bowels and we were finding blood. Despite her youth, we knew it was time. At the vet, my mom held her as they gave her the relaxing shot. A few minutes later, she was a dead weight. My mom couldn’t hold her up, so we put her on my lap. I put one hand on her head and the other under her–so I could feel her heart. It was relaxed. Then they gave her the shot. Her heart gave a single beat….then stopped.
I’m spending most of my days learning Arabic and going through hundreds of pages of manuals for the Peace Corps. I am trying to do as much as I can right now so I can take a couple days off and truly kick back and enjoy myself for Christmas. It seems to be going pretty well. I believe I just finished the last of the readings. Now I just have a checklist and lots of language preparations left.
There are a lot of interesting questions that have cropped up. Cross-cultural understanding. Universal rights. A lot of these questions I will encounter once I make the move to Morocco in 23 days. The big question right now is a living will. I am leaving one behind with my parents. We’ve talked about it before, but I understand the need to put it all in writing. It’s strange thinking through the multiplicity of way you could find yourself in a end-of-life situation. Moreover, I’m a little surprised at my own beliefs …and how little I would want to be kept alive artificially.
I feel extremely accomplished. I finished my most difficult Elance job yesterday–and the client is very happy with the work. Today, I helped clean my house, spent a good deal of time editing, and applied to a couple new jobs. I feel like Summer is fully underway–which is great considering it’s the solstice today. I just want to edit and read for the next couple days. that would leave me with a smile on my face.
Today’s memory is a strong challenger for one of the saddest memories of my life. The story is about the death of my friend’s seven-month old son. I wrote the memory while at my coffee shop. I teared up quite a bit and did everything I could to hide my tears from the people around me. It’s so strange writing emotional things while in public–like you are the keeper of a secret.