Monday, December 2, 2013

Give like life depends on it

Sometimes I wonder what it feels like to save a life.

My husband, Brad, gets to do it all the time. All part of his passion to fly. All as a result of a dream to move to Indonesia as an MAF pilot.

 All in a day’s work. 

Sometimes his passenger is a little Indonesian boy with a high fever from some faraway Borneo village that has no doctor and too many disease-carrying mosquitos. Other times it’s a pregnant woman who has been in labor for days, her breached baby losing the will to live.

Every once in a while, Brad flies somewhere that is suffering from an epidemic, something strange to our western ears like cholera or measles. Something we rarely see within American borders. But an illness that can wipe out an entire village of Dayak Indonesians in a matter of days.

And all it takes is a one-hour plane ride out of the jungle to a town with a hospital and doctors and operating tables and medicines. And then life can go back to the way it was for the patient, filled with ordinary days of harvesting rice or taking care of children or walking to school on a dirt path.

After more than eight years of living in Indonesia together, I’ve forgotten too many of Brad’s stories that I’ve heard over the dinner table,  as we ate beans in homemade tortillas, the mosque in the background calling people to pray, the ants scurrying over pots and pans that I haven’t yet cleaned.

I know it sounds crazy, but the life-and-death stories almost sound normal as I feed the baby and scrub grubby toddler hands. And if you understood why we do this, you'd see just how normal our life really is. 

But in the midst of the normal and routine and everyday moments, I try not to forget something important. Though it’s part of Brad’s almost daily life in Indonesia,  it’s not ho-hum. And while it makes perfect sense for us to do this, it’s not mundane. And while we're just ordinary people, this work is not.

Giving never is. Hard? Yes sometimes. Scary? For me, oftentimes. But ordinary? Never.

Whether it’s the hours my husband spends flying to dirt smudges of landing strips in wild jungle, the time he spent preparing for this job (seven years), the years we take our kids away from grandparents in the States to live in Indonesia, I have to remember.  The giving matters.

Whether the money that it takes to make this work happen comes from a barely legible check of a  90-year-old widow in Colorado or a college student with a small income and a big heart in Virginia or someone I’ve never met sitting at their computer in the Netherlands, you have to remember.

The giving matters.

Whether it’s the sweaty work done by a national worker in an MAF hangar, or the unsung tasks done by an MAF home office worker, or the investment a college professor made into training a future pilot or mechanc, they have to remember. The giving matters.

That’s because giving allows us—all of us—to be part of something bigger than ourselves. To make our money last longer than a click of the mouse on Black Friday. To join together as a bunch of a small, simple, ordinary people to become a team. No, a family.

And the giving us allows all of us to maybe, just maybe save a life.

And maybe that life saved is someone we never meet, someone we couldn’t understand even if we did get to talk to him, someone who will live out the rest of their days in their shack with dirt floors.

And maybe that life saved is ours.

A life saved from fears and doubts and suffocating comfort zones.  A life saved from insignificance, from thinking we can’t do anything to change the bad things. A life saved from never seeing anything extraordinary.

I know that’s how it is for me.  I may not get to write humongous checks or fly a plane with a sick child or pass out rice in a hungry village. But I get to be part of the giving. When I get on that endless commercial flight from the States with three tired kids to return to life in Indonesia, I get to be part of the giving.

And when I stand in front of scary-big crowds in the States and tell of the work in Indonesia after a sleepless night of caring for my sick baby, I get to be part of the giving—both yours and mine.

This Giving Tuesday, MAF is trying to raise $24,000 in 24 hours to provide one day of the money needed to make medical MAF flights around the world happen. 

One day of giving. Just ordinary people giving what they can to save the lives of other ordinary people. All over the world. In the most extraordinary way.

Will you join me? 

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