by Keisha Paul
Peak Performance Physical Therapy Aide
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content.” (Philippians 4:12 NIV)
We are all forced from home at times, due to daily obligations, but most of us have a home to which we can return. We are all born from our mother’s womb. We all have a beating heart, a brain and a purpose. How did God decide the purpose of each person? How is each individual’s specific journey set forth in motion? Some have more than others and some have much less, yet we all have a crucial job in this world.
Hanging, on my wall at home, there are three suns; a wall décor; three small mirrors in the shape of suns. Each one is unique, different from the other. They are all the same size, but placed at different heights. I often sit and stare at them thinking how—to me—they represent human beings, people, living in this world today. Each human is placed on different social levels, dispersed in different regions on the globe, hold different positions and are very similar yet unique. However, the beautiful secret that is true for us all is that we each originated from the same place: our mother’s womb.
Friday, September 23, 2016. Boy oh boy, what a day! A day to share! A day that spoke wonders to me. I woke up that morning around 5:00 A.M, already exhausted. Emotionally stressed and physically tired from the week prior, and I was donating the only day I had off to a special cause. I woke up thinking to myself: Can I really do this? Better yet: Why am I doing this? Just something else I can put on my resume, right? Or, maybe it will be a great experience. I mean its Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctor’s Without Borders, how can you get better than this? I jumped out of bed, showered and got dressed; but the rest of my morning didn’t run as smooth.
As I was buying my ticket at the LIRR station, I looked at my feet and realized I was wearing the wrong shoes. Idiot! I was supposed to wear closed toe shoes. Instead, I had on sandals. Great! There was nothing I could do. I was already late. Once on the train, I sat beside an unfriendly stranger; a man with a deep scowl on his face. As the ticket attendant approached to clip and check our tickets, he asked me for three more dollars. In a rush and not paying close attention, I purchased the wrong ticket.
“I don’t have it! Can you take a card?” Although, I’ve been on the LIRR numerous times and knew they didn’t take cards, I was desperate and still asked. Kindly, he let me slide.
Finally making it to Penn Station, I began to run around looking for a store that sold closed toe shoes. I didn’t have much money and wasn’t looking forward to spending any. Checking the time on my phone, I had about 15 minutes to get the shoes and get over to the event. I was supposed to be there by 8 A.M. It was 7:45 A.M.
Annoyed, I was thinking, This is my luck! Never ever a dull moment! Finally I found a K-Mart, bought a pair of flats, ran to get a metro card and waited for the subway. Sweating and feeling disgusting, I looked down the tunnel, trying to spot the light from the train. Nothing yet. I continued to wait. I didn’t want to be late, especially for this event. This was a chance to learn more about the crisis in Syria, a topic on which I hadn’t been that knowledgeable.
Finally! The train approached. I got on and noticed all the different types of people, heading to different destinations. Some happy, smiling; some sad and aggravated; some tired and rushed.
When Chamber Street—my destination—was announced I got off and headed up the stairs to the busy streets of the Manhattan. Knowing I was down a few more dollars, I grunted and ordered a car. There was no time to walk, but the traffic was ruthless and what was supposed to be a four minute drive took ten.
This was my first real volunteer experience with Doctors Without Borders and I didn’t want to make a bad impression. Finally, the car stopped. I jumped out and ran, but couldn’t help noticing the beautiful scene before me. The event was beside the water at Battery Park in lower Manhattan. 8:04 AM and I stood before the entrance…whew! They hadn’t started yet. I was good.
The event, entitled Forced from Home, was designed to assimilate what refugees or asylum victims were experiencing as they were forced from their homes. My station, The Technology Tent, hosted a virtual movie tour of three countries featuring three different families. Participants were able to take a virtual 360-degree tour using high-definition goggles to experience and travel the streets of Honduras, Tanzania, and Iraq. The Iraq experience was seen through the eyes of a Syrian refugee family. The virtual reality tour allowed one to endure how it felt to live with the terror that these people faced daily.
Suddenly, my stressful morning seemed trivial; wasted hours spent complaining (even if it was mostly in my own head) about the little things. While in reality, other people around the world were much less fortunate, facing larger problems and didn’t have the luxury or time to complain, but only the time to survive.
After hours of working and then trying out my own exhibit, I decided to explore. Beauty and pain; my emotions along with gratefulness for the world in which I lived and the position I carry in it cannot be expressed in words. I learned that 50 to 80 refugees were stuffed into boats meant to hold 15 high school students, comfortably. Once filled, they sailed across the Mediterranean Sea. Families were given two gallons of water a day to survive. That’s two gallons for cleaning, drinking and cooking. In addition, they could only travel with what was on their backs and in their hearts. There were no opportunities to stop at stores and buy a pair of shoes they needed or wanted.
During the tour, we had to choose five items to carry with us on the journey. I chose medicine, water, clothes, family photos/memories and money. The entire exhibit consisted of ten stops. At each stop we had to give up an item. At the end of the tour, the item I was left with was my family photos/memories. A woman asked me why I chose to keep the photos. I believed that out of all the items they were the most important. Water and food, I could retrieve at some point on my journey and I’d be satisfied with just the clothes on my back. However, I knew this item—these photos—would push me to continue moving forward, to survive, give me mental stability and be a reminder of why I was doing what I was doing.
Since it was a beautiful day, after the tour, I decided to walk back to the train station. On the way home, I thought about the suns on my wall; how I am one of the suns. I’m at a different position, but still the same, still a human being. I have so much in life that will come, but must be content with what I have now because I’ve learned and know what it feels like to have a lot and what it feels like to have nothing or less. And when I’m forced from home, I can always come back. Some people can’t.
About the Author
Keisha Paul is a Peak Performance Physical Therapy Aide. A recent graduate from Quinnipiac University, she studied Biomedical Sciences and is planning to pursue her Masters in Public Health (MPH) and Physician Assistant (PA). She volunteers for Doctors Without Borders. Keisha was kind enough to share her most recent experience in the following story.