Every wall has its door.

Something strange happened the other day.

I didn’t have anything to do. It was such an odd feeling, like everything that was in motion suddenly stopped. Or paused. And I could see my surroundings. I was home. I sat down on the couch and looked around. The kids were out. Allison was at the store. The dog was asleep. My usually-jammed inbox was empty. I had scrolled through my social channels and read the news.

Perhaps it was the glow of the tree or the calm and clarity of the moment, but I sat there and reflected for a bit. It was nice. Peaceful. I haven’t written a blog in a while. To be honest, this fall was a rough one. The Rohingya refugees one week followed by Haitian homes and amputees the next. Itwas a lot to digest, and a massive dissonance to reconcile at home.  

Between patients at the clinic here, I would often close my eyes and see the faces of the kids running in the refugee camps. Or watching TV at night, I’d catch myself staring straight through it, wondering what the child with no leg was doing to get to school in Port au Prince. It’s a strange feeling to reconcile. They’re not images I’m haunted by. They’re oddly, quietly just there. They appear at random times and in the strangest of places. I wondered why. 

In the serenity of this moment and season, I think the answer is clear: they are there to remind me.

There’s a lot of negativity around us. It’s hard to watch the news these days without being drawn into the issues. Locally. Nationally.Internationally. It can jade you if you let it. And often it does. We grow immune or, even worse, apathetic to it. We experience our own hurdles, barriers, and heartache in Team Broken Earth as well. We’ve had failed trips, broken equipment, upset team members, and failed pitches for donations. It sometimes feels like you are taking two steps forward and three back. I have to remind myself that this is not the case. That’s why the faces of that children appear. We are not taking three steps back. We may stumble and even at timesfall, but we are moving forward. The faces of patients that appear are the onesto show me that walls are actually doors. They open. We move forward, alwaysforward.

As a team, we’ve been reflecting on who we are lately. I have heard from people that we should be focusing on changing the country, changing the people, as that is what will change Haiti and make it better. That wall can seem daunting until you realize the only way to change a people is through individuals. Helping change the lives of individuals is what we do well,it is why we do what we do. Changing the life of an individual can change others, have downstream everlasting consequences. And that will change the people. That’s it. It starts with the one as one will influence many.

This fall, we partnered with the Lions Club and distributed our 5000th pair of eyeglasses in low income countries. One of these patients was a young boy, maybe 5 or 7 years old, who desperately needed glasses. He proceeded through the screening stations and at the end was given a pair of glasses. As he was leaving, he was high-stepping, knees up in the air, up to his chest. He had never seen the lines on the tiled floor before and was afraid we would trip on them. For him, we made a wall a door.

Then there is Rudy, the boy who we had treated in Haiti that needed a prosthesis for an amputation. We visited him in his home and travelled through the mountainside hills in unbearable heat with unstable walkways knitted throughout the sheet metal roofed huts. Yet Rudy navigated the twistingturning steep maze with ease, never breaking a sweat.

It took us 30 minutes to get from Rudy’s home to the school where he attends. A single building with one classroom, no toilet and limited electricity, if any at all. Yet when we asked the teacher how Rudy was doing in school, she smiled and raved about his dedication and how the only thing bigger than his spirit was his smile. For Rudy too, a wall became a door.

Last week, I was part of seeing how another charity I workwith was having a direct impact in people’s lives. I’ve been working with BrendanPaddick and Alan Doyle on “A dollar a Day,” collecting funds for mental healthand addictions services. We visited Thrive, an organization providing help foryouth and young adults who suffer from mental health or addiction issues.  These guys are on the frontlines. The officewas full of donations of essentials like socks, deodorant, food and shoes, all organizedinto packages for people. I overheard someone there say, “people’s futureshould not be defined by their past.” How far does a dollar go? A long way. These donations together will help organizations like Thrive to continue tohelp youth, some of whom are homeless but not forgotten. It’ll help themrealize their future is still a blank page. It felt good to know that we arehelping people open new doors in their lives.  

Finally, there is a family from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Determined to make a better life for their two boys, and after hearing Team Broken Earthspeak about Memorial University, they are immigrating to Canada this month to pursue further university studies. They may be pursuing education, but they are chasing the hope to create a better future for their children. They see Canada as a land of positivity and opportunity. They don’t concentrate on the negativity, they see Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador as an amazing place to live and raise a family.

So, the population of Newfoundland and Labrador is about to grow by 4. The community gets bigger, brighter and more diverse. The future is the same way. Shake off the negativity and place a hand on any wall in front of you. You can’t see it, you have to feel your way through. There’s always a door. You just have to reach for it.

Ok. I’ve got to get off the couch now. There’s never a shortage of things to be done before the holidays. And maybe it’s the warmth of the Christmas tree or the nostalgia it welcomes this time of year, but it all makes me smile. I believe that contentment is found in the simplest of things. A card from a friend. A smile to a stranger. And the love we give and get through charitable acts, great and small. We’re all better for it when we see the goodness and the opportunities it brings. Let’s always choose that. Let’snot see walls but always find the doors.

From my family to you and yours, happiest of holidays and all the very best in 2019.


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