by: Brandi Miloy
@brandimilloy BrandiMilloy.com // POPSUGAR’s Lifestyle Expert & Host/Producer for Get the Dish with Brandi Milloy
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”
They say there are moments in your life that change you-that shape you into the person you become. They are decisions you make or maybe decisions you didn’t make, obstacles you’ve overcome or as Oprah says, they are your “a ha” moments.
For me, these moments happen when things become clear and you are humbled and reminded what is important in life. For me, that’s my faith, my family, my friends and my health. I’ve experienced life-changing moments in my time. When I was 13 I was diagnosed with scoliosis, the curvature of the spine, and was fitted for a back brace that I wore 23 hours of the day for almost four years. During this time, I also had glasses and braces. I was the perfect recipe for being teased. I learned early on the importance of integrity, character and inner beauty. People would judge me based on all of the things they saw on the outside instead of getting to know me. Then I ended up losing my dream of being a college athlete after three back surgeries over the course of five years. During this time I tried focusing on God’s plan for me and continued to put my trust in Him. I became a volunteer counselor for other young women going through the surgery. I used my experience as a way to connect with others who were struggling with accepting themselves. I became a motivational speaker on overcoming obstacles and staying positive despite your circumstances. This experience absolutely taught me about compassion, love and acceptance. If I hadn’t of experienced any of my scoliosis issues I would have never been able to relate to those who feel like they don’t belong, victims of bullying or just people trying to find their way. Because of this experience the way I view others is completely different. When I see people, I see their actions, I hear their words and I feel their heart. The physical self is so insignificant.
Last October I volunteered in Uganda, Africa with the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAUGanda.org). I shadowed palliative and hospice care workers and volunteers and helped to document their efforts while also supporting and developing their communications program. During a field visit we visited Mulago Hospital…if you can even call it a hospital. It’s old, dirty, and everything was makeshift and not quite functional. As we approached the building my gut just started hurting. When we arrived to the fourth floor we heard a woman screaming, yelling her lungs out. She was on the floor with other people and I couldn’t tell if she was sick or if someone had just passed but it was frightening. Then I looked around and noticed the floor was packed with people, sick people waiting to be seen. Some of them just lying there with visible sicknesses open sores, wounds, deformities, etc. None of the standards we are used to were there. The patient rooms are one big room on each floor, lined with beds but the beds are like cots and they have torn, old, mix matched sheets. And the smell is like sewer and rotten eggs and feces and B.O all in one. The sound of babies and children crying, people yelling…each floor has a guard so that the patients waiting don’t riot and try to barge in. Even that was scary to see. The wheel chairs are wooden, there is no elevator to climb the 6 floors (so they carry them in cots) and there is no air conditioning so it’s hot, humid and sticky. In Uganda, the patient to doctor ration is 10,000 to 1. The need is so overwhelming you can’t even wrap your head around it.
I followed Dr. Jennifer and we visited children-all of them with terminal illnesses. Little helpless children who just lay there waiting to take their medicine. There’s no bright colors on the walls or stuffed animals for them to hold. Many of them have been abandoned by their parents. They are roomed with whoever is beside them-grown men, women, whoever. Just windows and their holey mosquito net (if they’re lucky) to look at. The water they are served are in old plastic cooking oil containers and the food is rice beans or a boiled egg. Barely any IV drips or monitors or any other process for keeping track of patients except for pieces of paper taped to the edge of their bed. And electricity is not available in the entire hospital-just some parts. For pain control, they use liquid morphine in old water bottles to help ease their pain. There was so much to absorb I just couldn’t take it all in.
The last patient we met is Teddy. She is 9 years old and has a tumor that has grown into the left side of her face. One of her eyes is shut because the mass is so big it has caused her teeth to shift since the tumor is taking over half of her head. She looked weak but sat up to talk to the Doctor and the other nurses when she saw us. I learned that she is an orphan. Her parents died of HIV AIDS and TB. Her sister lives so far away that she has only visited once in years.
What I loved about meeting Teddy was that despite all of the circumstances around her, she was grateful. She had personality and a great attitude. There are 59 languages spoken in Uganda so even some of the other local volunteers couldn’t understand what Teddy was saying but I knew what she was saying. You don’t have to understand to know what joy looks like on a child’s face. The positive energy she had was bursting out of her like a rainbow. She was so appreciative of the little time the doctors and volunteers had for her. You could tell she looked forward to it and it was her time to show off and keep them laughing and smiling. As I was taking photos, Teddy even wanted me to take her picture! She was kind of being bashful at first but then posed for me a bit and giggled to herself like any girl would who kind of likes getting photos taken of herself. She was beautiful.
This is just one example of the compassion and love I witnessed when I served there. These people have nothing, come from nothing and expect nothing. Especially the people I visited in hospice and palliative care-their health is deteriorating, their bodies are weak but their spirits are strong. SEEING and BEING with people who have NOTHING be SO thankful and joyful for God and all of his blessing is life changing…it brings me to tears.
We are all so incredibly blessed. And we all have talents that we can share and express in acts of kindness. I was able to use my journalism degree and communications background to help support the organization I chose to work with but I encourage you to share your talents with the world. If you are a singer, visit nursing homes and entertain. If you love basketball, try volunteering with a youth team. Love to read, visit the children’s hospital and read your heart out. There are so many random acts of kindness that can be done TODAY that can start a huge wave of change in the world! My hope for you is that by sharing your talents and connecting with others you too will find clarity in life and realize the “soul” purpose of life is to serve one another.