A New Standard for Success

A New Standard for Success

I have always thought of myself as being decently successful, but when you get thrown into a foreign context (literally), that standard for success kind of goes out the window.  Part of my job as the AV for the Diocese of Chulucanas Health Office is to accompany patients to the hospital, sometimes here in Chulucanas and sometimes in Piura (the nearest large city about an hour’s distance away).  At first, I thought it was simply for moral support, but I quickly realized it is because so many people here have never had experiences with hospital or doctor visits.  To me, it seemed like something pretty ordinary, but to some people, it is a totally different world.  In the past few weeks, I have been accompanying a woman and her 1.5 year old daughter who needed an operation to correct her clubbed feet.  I struggled with these visits because during our trips, I always ended up looking at the mother with a confused face because I didn’t understand what someone said or because I didn’t know what to do next.  I am supposed to be the one guiding this mother and her child and I feel like I am letting them down by not knowing what important questions to ask the doctor or how to carry out the payment process correctly.  The other day, we were boarding the bus to go to one of the baby’s post-operation appointments and we ran into the Hermana Marielena, an American nun who I occasionally work with.  Later she told me that she was very touched to see me accompanying this mother and her child.  My response was a laugh because I immediately thought about how lost and ridiculous I felt each time I accompanied these two to Piura for the pre-op and post-op visits and for the operation itself.  This particular mother comes from a rural area about an hour from Chulucanas and she is not familiar with the hospital scene, but I too would say I am not very familiar with the hospital scene!  Throw in the fact that Spanish is my second language and you’ve almost got the blind leading the blind.  After telling Hermana that I doubted how helpful I actually was for the mother, she said “You know what? You probably put her at ease when she saw that someone else was just as confused as she was.”  It is funny how hearing someone else’s perspective can totally change your own, if you allow it to.  I never thought my own confusion and lack of certainty could be viewed in such a positive light but she is right.  The mother can rest easy that she is not the only one who struggles to navigate the hospital and that despite any confusion we both feel, we must continue until we get what we are seeking: the treatment that will change her precious child’s future.

This experience brings me back to conversations about success we had during community prayer one night about a month ago.  We reflected on the following quote:

 “Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.  For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the byproduct of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself…”

-Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning).

Our society places so much emphasis on being successful and we are obsessed with results.  We want to see the fruits of our labor, and then be able to write about it in our resumes.  I have learned that I can’t really have that mentality here.  One, because the culture here in Chulucanas seems to place more emphasis on interactions and relationships than on quantifying productivity. And two, because I have no previous background in health so I have no previous experience to work off of.  In reality, what good does it do me to try to reach a certain level of “success” to feel productive, useful and accomplished?  I can say that my trips to Piura for this particular mother and child were a “success” because I surrendered myself and my energies (and even my pride, just a little bit since I surely looked foolish in the process) to this mother, her daughter and her daughter’s treatment the best I could.  I have found so much joy in this realization that in my work here, no one is expecting me to be a professional and know everything already.  All I can do is offer with a sincere sense of generosity my time and effort.  At some point, in some way, success will ensue.  Let me not make success my end goal, but rather solidarity, compassion, sincere interactions and a genuine willingness to offer my time to those in need.

Our society places so much emphasis on being successful and we are obsessed with results.  We want to see the fruits of our labor, and then be able to write about it in our resumes.  I have learned that I can’t really have that mentality here.  One, because the culture here in Chulucanas seems to place more emphasis on interactions and relationships than on quantifying productivity. And two, because I have no previous background in health so I have no previous experience to work off of.  In reality, what good does it do me to try to reach a certain level of “success” to feel productive, useful and accomplished?  I can say that my trips to Piura for this particular mother and child were a “success” because I surrendered myself and my energies (and even my pride, just a little bit since I surely looked foolish in the process) to this mother, her daughter and her daughter’s treatment the best I could.  I have found so much joy in this realization that in my work here, no one is expecting me to be a professional and know everything already.  All I can do is offer with a sincere sense of generosity my time and effort.  At some point, in some way, success will ensue.  Let me not make success my end goal, but rather solidarity, compassion, sincere interactions and a genuine willingness to offer my time to those in need.

Bridget Hennessy
Chulucanas, Peru 2016

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