I Volunteer to Experience the Joy

Recently I was chatting with a friend about the team’s upcoming medical mission to Peru. She asked what city we’d be working in and when I mentioned Lima she got all excited for me. “You’re going to Machu Picchu of course! That is SO exciting.”

Shaking my head I informed her that “No, I cannot make it to Machu Picchu this trip. Someday, but not this trip.” She stared at me like I had two heads and then dropped this on me, “Then WHY do you want to go?”

I just stared at her. Why wouldn’t I want to go? Which of course led me to writing this, because I don’t volunteer for WOGO to vacation, I volunteer because I love working with the medical team and the patients and their families. Getting a hug from a patient after they’ve participated in group physical therapy is a great joy. Experiencing the smiles of families as they watch a patient take their first steps with a new knee is priceless. There is so much joy and celebration throughout all of the days we are onsite, it just fills you up. Faith in humanity is restored (to use a cliché). I wouldn’t miss the trip for anything.

I’ll admit that it is a lovely bonus that we have time to explore our locations during down time from surgery, recovery and physical therapy. The team has been lucky to experience the sights and sounds of Kathmandu, wandering the shops of the Thamel region. We’ve hiked volcanoes in Guatemala and tasted Macadamia nuts on a green farm outside of Antigua. These are places I may never have seen. Experiencing them is a joy. But spending time with the medical team in action in a hospital is the real joy of a trip.

So this year, while my medical team family heads to Machu Picchu, to explore the history and mystery I won’t be able to join. I’ll miss the story of the Incas. But I will head home having supported the team as they make lives better by replacing knees.

I’ll miss the majesty of the Andes and instead experience the joy of a tradeshow with my work colleagues. Machu Picchu will always be there, but the patients whose live we change will not, and that’s the part I don’t want to miss.

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