Uncertainty is a way of life here.
When it comes down to it, the answer to questions is often "I don't know." This was the answer I got when I asked whether or not I'd be going to Fallujah for Remedy Mission X last July. The problem wasn't the lack of communication, the real challenge, for me, was the inability to create expectations (and therefore plans) of any kind. It’s often difficult to gauge what a mission is going to look like, especially when the mission is a first-of-its-kind in a new city. And, since Fallujah was a first-ever, it was guaranteed to have bumps along the way. Embracing this fact, I made sure to walk into the week with an open mind.
I’d heard a lot about Fallujah over the years, but most importantly I knew that the city had experienced a lot of pain and difficulty, and all I wanted to do was make it better—somehow. But how? How could I, a 20 year old from America, be able to make any difference in such a big, broken place so far from home?
The more I pondered this question, the more my response made sense to me: I can make a difference by endeavoring to love everyone I come into contact with. But that begs the question: "how do I show my love for these people when I've barely just met them?" I strived to find an answer to this question all week.
And the week was a blur!
Children were in and out of the operating room faster than I thought possible. But with the intention to love in the back of my mind at all times, I moved forward in my interactions with the children and their families filled with as much purpose and love as I could muster. I made sure not to let my fatigue and frustration show, and I made sure to have a smile on my face at all times. I was there to be a friendly face and bearer of joy as I documented the mission with my camera.
Looking back, I can barely recall how exhausted I was that week as the experiences of love and joy stand out far more prominently in my mind. The doctors loved the children, the children loved their parents, and the parents loved the doctors.
As love is put into the world, love circles back around. It begets itself.
In the course of a week, I took hundreds of photos. Photos of everything from the children hanging out in pre-op to the doctors working in the cath lab. But out of all the images that I took in the course of the week the ones that stand out the most to me are the ones of kisses, crayons, and bubbles—not because they're the cutest images of the week, but because they best exemplify the love that filled the hospital. The very same love that I tried to foster all week. But all of that effort made by our team and the local doctors is just a drop in the bucket. Fallujah is still a broken city in need of attention and love, and the past still matters. But if we can continue to push ourselves toward selflessness over and over and over again, mission after mission, then I believe we’ll be able to create a future filled with love towards one another.
I believe we can reshape old perceptions previously founded on hate.