The village was dusty, old, and hot. Now and then you could hear a fan running, a motorcycle pass by, a child laugh, or the creak of the well as water was pulled up. All in all, it would seem pretty normal compared to other villages in India, but this one was different. A figurative shadow hung low over the cement houses and dirt roads.
I sat in the medical van with four other people in my team as we passed through the leprosy colony toward the town center. We were a part of a program called Rising Star Outreach, and today’s task was to gather all the leprosy-affected patients (we never call them lepers) and remove, wash and reapply bandages to their injured bodies. I was a little nervous. I’d never done anything like this before, and I wasn’t sure I would be good at it or even do it the right way. What if I got sick or made them not feel loved? I was kind of freaking out! But I was ready to serve and had faith that everything would be all right.
We unloaded all of the tools, filled the buckets with water, and sat down at the feet of our first patients. Most of the patients had injured hands or feet. Because their nerves had lost all the feeling in them, they couldn’t feel if they, for example, stepped on a nail or grabbed a hot pan. Things like that. A lot of them had areas where the skin had disintegrated all the way down to the bone. If untreated, they could get seriously infected and cause further pain throughout their body. Without going into toooo much detail, let’s just say that as I peeled off the bandages and washed their feet with water and soap my emotions were deep and powerful.
I felt connected to my Savior so intensely as I sat at the feet of these leprosy-beaten children of God. I could see Him loving and healing these people. And even though I couldn’t speak their language, I felt their gratitude as we cared for them. I also felt gratitude for my life in the LDS church and being raised to try to love as the Savior did.
After being so close to the grotesque disease that leprosy is, I can totally understand why these people were shunned and cast out. Ok, maybe not the cast out part, but this stuff could be really scary to those who don’t understand it or who have a hard time loving people who are different.
How can this relate to us here in the United States?
Not all of us can fly to India, find a leprosy colony, and wash the feet of leprosy patients everyday. We don’t always see the poverty that most of the world lives in and the needs of those in other countries. Sometimes I wonder, why was I so blessed to live here? Where I have air conditioning, a good school, a grocery store with a million different kinds of cereal, paved roads, stop lights, and a police force that cares about my safety. There are so many things that I have that I take for granted. Why was I placed here in my wonderful life instead of in the middle of poverty-stricken Haiti or somewhere that I would be more aware of those in need?
The fact is that our Father in Heaven placed us here on earth, in our families, in our particular circumstances for a reason. Wherever we are placed is the best place for us to be so that we could grow and become more like our Savior.
Even though we may look around and not see a lot of trouble, if we truly want to be more like the Savior we must open our eyes and find those around us who are different or who need healing or who are being “cast out” in a way and serve them and love them. This is what the Savior did most while He was on earth. He found the lost, wounded, sick, afflicted, and even the ones who weren’t so outwardly down trodden but needed their hearts changed. Like the man who asked the Savior what he could do to have eternal life, and the Savior asked him to give up all of his riches and follow Him. Whether we are wealthy or poor, we all have potential to learn and grow.
I challenge all of us to open our eyes and look around at the people in our schools, homes, and communities and to find someone who is different and therefore not as welcomed as everyone else. They may not have leprosy or be sent to a special neighborhood or be a different color as you or even look different at all. But there is always someone in your span of acquaintances who is probably feeling a little different and needs a friend. Loving and serving someone who is so different from you can be really hard. But I promise that as you get to know them and find a way to serve them, it will become easier and easier to love them and care for them and truly start to view them as God does and feel His love for them as well as the potential that they have to progress in this life. We are all children of God, and as we serve each other we all become more like our Savior and closer to being our best selves.
Guest Post by Tara Brough
Tara currently lives in Gilbert with her husband and two kids. Before marriage she studied voice at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She is now a full-time mom with part-time work as a Voice teacher and Wedding videographer. She also has her own lifestyle blog which she tries to keep up with when she’s not chasing around her two lively kids. She loves being a mother, wife, mormon, blogger, and videographer and is always looking for new things to learn from her everyday life.