Friday, August 18, 2006

Why Am I Here?

Well, here we are after one week of our adventure in Indonesia. Our family of six, which includes boys ages nine, six, five and a seven month old infant girl, has come with a nonprofit organization, Catholic Relief Services, to help rebuild after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. We have come to the area affected the most; to Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia for the next year and a half.

As I sit here at 10:35 am waiting for the car that was supposed to come at 9 am (island time!) with no water pressure to hose off my children, hoping Sabrina doesn’t blow out of the last two diapers in the pack before I can get to a store, I have to wonder, “What the hell am I doing?”

As my friends may know, my husband Rob has always been looking for the meaning in his life. He is forever searching for why he has chosen to do what he does. He is a civil engineer, following in the footsteps of his father. While I am perfectly happy to apply my college degree to a fun job, go the gym and shop at Nordstrom, he has always wondered why he has his talents, and how he can put them to the best use. I guess it’s easier being a mother; as long as the kids are fed, clothed and housed, I feel like I’ve performed at least my basic mission in life. The rest is all frosting on the cake.

So, when our insane friend Chris called (and I did think he was a bit off his rocker before he lured us to where I now sit!) and said ‘Hey, Indonesia needs a Rob Richardson’, we looked very closely at his request.

While it hasn’t been the easiest journey getting here, we’ve been able to make it work. I question myself about how messed up my children will be after a year of being home schooled by me, taken out of organized sports programs and forced to eat something other than Trix yogurt and McDonalds. But deep in my heart, I know it’s something we have been called to do.

CRS is quite a mixed bag. Administratively, it has been a very big test of patience. I feel like we have not only had blinders on, but have been spun around three times and forced to walk backwards to find our way here. We’ve had to figure out shots and medications, homeschooling programs, flights, dog shipments, shipment and storage of our personal belongings, and a place to live with not a lot of information. It makes me think longing of the swimming pool, BMW and diamond rings I left behind. I think about the lost ability to drive myself to the grocery store whenever I want. That I could go to a friend’s house any time. Find a playmate for my kids with little trouble. If a kid is bleeding profusely or has chopped off a limb, I can get them to a doctor. (the little things in life!)

Then we remember why we are here. Because there are a few thousand people in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia who do not have a home a year and a half after one of the world’s biggest natural disasters. That what is missing in getting the houses finished is someone with experience with contracts, construction, dealing with accountants and auditors, and finessing the locals; they were missing a Rob Richardson.

There has been some grumbling that the places receiving money and rebuilding are the places where richer people are located. Maybe there is some truth in that, but I haven’t seen it yet. We’ve traveled to the beaches where whole villages have been decimated. There are permanent and temporary shelters built; roads redone. In a place where a large part of the coast line has been forever changed because of forces of nature, that is no small feat. CRS has been a part of that.

CRS has epitomized ‘love thy neighbor’ to me more than any other organization or single entity has before. While they are helping to redo the 80 year old Catholic Church in downtown Banda (the anniversary is September 10, of all things), they rebuilt the local mosque first. They are rebuilding a kindergarten and a large downtown park. They are building 2700 houses. I’m happy to be a part of this organization, even if it took a month for Rob to get his first paycheck and it’s now 11am and still no car.

I’m no saint. I’d like to be watching Good Day LA with a nonfat, grande, decaf latte in my hand. I’d like to use a hair dryer to dry my hair. I’d like to not go to an outside kitchen to use the stove. I’d like to have some hot water for washing my dishes. But then, I think about the fact that maybe Rob and I have been in training to do this sort of thing all our lives. That each move we’ve made has been a little less coddling and a whole lot more giving to those who need it. And there are countless others who are here with or without small children, working countless hours to do a little good in an area that needs it. If they can do it, why can’t I?

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