Moved to Make a Difference

“What did you take away from this trip with you?” When asked this question, I spent about thirty minutes attempting to come up with some way to cohesively state all of the things Bhutan has given me to bring home. I struggled a lot with deciding how best to show just how impactful my encounters with Bhutanese people have been and what significant they hold for me. In an effort to do so, I have decided to form my answer by weaving in some of the stories I will never forget.

How do you explain a kind of kindness that you are not sure others have experienced in their lifetimes? The kind that meant a family pushed of their morning cow milking by an hour so that we could sleep after our long travels, even though their main cow was in pain from pregnancy and an overload of milk, and even though taking the milk to market is their sole source of income. How do you explain it when a table of nuns in a nunnery, comfortably eating their last meal before 16 hours of fasting, move all of their books and belongings from the table to allow you to come sit and speak with them. How can you take that spirit home with you? My only clarity on this was to journal my response and my feelings to having been shown such generosity, and to reread this journals as I go forward in life to remind myself that unconditional kindness and hospitality goes a long way. The happiness of the mother of the home with the cow at seeing us try our best to milk her cow, her readiness to help, and her invitation of all 17 of us to tea, as well as the eagerness of the nuns to stop eating and speak with us, have shown me the beauty in each moment, each conversation, new experiences, and serves as a good reminder of the fact that I myself can do better to show kindness to strangers.

On July 17, I visited the Bhutan Kidney foundation’s guest house in which patients undergoing dialysis or awaiting a transplant reside. I learned about a 23 year old woman who joined the home when she was just thirteen. Her sister, a blood type match, offered her a kidney, but the father refused to allow it out of fear that both his daughters would become ill. She has remained alone there for the past 6 years. This made me wonder why there is no existent donor list nor the opportunity to apply to be an organ donor.

Here my hands itched to go to work on developing one, yet with the limited time that we spend in Bhutan, my lack of political influence, as well as the understood institutional change that would be required to accomplish this, I was not feasible. Yet I am carry back with me the same frustration with the lack of donors in Bhutan and my connection with the founder of BKF and I hope to help from the United States in any way he needs. Despite the stories of Tashi, the founder, and despite how astounded I was by the progress he has made in helping kidney patients, it was the stories of the patients themselves that touched my heart in every way and squeezed it tightly. I won’t ever forget how hard it was to fight back tears as I listened to the patients speak and how in the hallway, when no one was around, I allowed myself to sit and cry.

Those tears will fuel me to make change. Part of my heart will always remain in that guest house, and it is that part of my heart that will draw me back to make a difference. These last two weeks, I have been more in touch with myself than I ever have been in my entire life. I was engaged in everything around me. When I attempted to explain this, my only answer was that I opened myself up to be present in every moment, to let people I had never known change me, and allow myself to export what beliefs I previously held to be true. Each day, I found myself challenging some part of myself that I had taken to be an unchangeable facet of my personality. I challenged my rigidness with Trisha’s ability to spontaneously break into dance in front of a crowd. I will continue to challenge myself and try to show the same kindness as was showed to me as I go home.

- Grace