(Posted July 15 from the journal of Brandi Shearin)
We finally made it to Cambodia after many hours of travel. We were all tired, weak, and exhausted and I think I speak for the whole group when I say that we’ve never been more excited to have air conditioning and hot water.
It seems like we just began this journey, but as I reflect on all of the experiences we’ve had it seems like a lifetime. We visited the blind and deaf school two days and have never seen kids so excited to receive stickers, pencils, and erasers. Dave actually had to give the biggest kid a sheet of stickers to help hold the other children off of him while he passed them out! I had no such luck. The children were so excited to show us the sign language they knew in English and of course my favorite was the sign for cat. They loved showing us their beds, classrooms, and their cricket skills. As we were departing on our last day at the school, the little girl that had escorted me around and held my hand the entire visit, signed the sign for sad and had tears in her eyes and watched us drive away in our van waving and crying the entire time.
Anyone would have been lucky enough to meet the children of the blind and deaf school in Sri Lanka but we were fortunate enough to not only meet them, but to also meet the people at the Sambodhi home. The residents of Sambodhi consist of children and adults with a range of mental and physical disabilities and seemed very intimidating before our first encounter. After the first few seconds after arrival those fears quickly melted away. The hugs came quickly and often. They weren’t just small hugs they were truly hugs of unconditional love and become longer and more meaningful as the days went on. I was a little worried at the beginning on what we were going to do with these people but I quickly learned that several things are universal…hugs, playing chase, coloring, turning anything round into a ball, hugging and spinning around until you’re dizzy, practicing Karate moves on the men, wanting to show off your toys, wanting to see pictures of yourself right after taking it, and love. We began learning their names, giving them our own nicknames and learning their distinct personalities. By the last day, I felt as though we had made life-long friends and connections and the small impact that I might have had on them was returned with the eternal impact that each and every one of the Sambodhi residents had on my life. As, we rode back to the hotel in the van, there was silence except for the sniffles and silent tears rolling down all of our faces.
The thought that has been floating in and out of my mind is that we have seen people living in the most simple conditions and in fact conditions that most people would consider un-livable, but are the most loving, caring, happy, and compassionate people that I’ve ever met. All they seem to care about is showing love and being happy with that around them. Why can’t we all be this way?