I often recall an experience that I had when I was a teenager, when our family began to take short-term medical relief trips to the Philippines. The four of us would head over to the Philippines for about three-weeks at a time conducting small-operation medical relief efforts.
In preparation for the trips, we would spend a month-or-so before gathering pharmaceutical samples donated to us. Sitting in front of the TV we would watch some movie while condensing the samples into larger bottles. Then we would pack two large boxes full of antibiotics and other basic pharmaceuticals and travel with them to the Philippines.
While there we would stay with Churches, or when in the barios (the outlaying villages), we would stay with local families. Generally we would travel into remote barios with a local pastor, or translator and set up a make-shift clinic where my mother would serve as the receptionist/nurse, my father would diagnose and treat, my sister would serve as pharmacist, and I would serve as logistics, praying with people alongside the pastor, playing games with the kids, or just handling anything else that came our way, like tie-ing down the tent when a storm came through.
It was after one such clinic and a particularly long, hot, and sticky day that we had finished with the clinic and were packing up everything, preparing to leave. I had spent a good deal of the day entertaining the children with some music and games. Just as I was about to climb into the jeep, I heared a young child calling out something in his local dialect. I turned around to discover a little boy who came scurrying up to me, juggling an armful of mangos which he barely managed to keep from dropping.
Upon reaching me he fell into my arms in pure exhaustion. The mangos tumbled onto the ground and I caught him and lifted him up. I held him in my arms, looking down to find that his arms and legs were scratched and bleeding. I turned a frantic look to the translator who explained that the boy had picked the mangos for me. I asked what happened to his arms and legs. The translator explained that he must have scratched them up when picking the fruit.
Doing the best I could to compose myself from tearing up, I gave that child a great big hug and called my father over to help clean and bandage his sores.
I have to say that everything we had done up to that point, under the banner of humanitarian aid, seemed to become a trifle as I cleaned that boys cuts.
I often look back to that moment to remind myself that my obligation to give does not stop when it becomes difficult. That is when true giving, true benevolence begins: when it has a cost, when it hurts, when it challenges us, and when it demands of us to endure the cuts and bruises and to run till we are exhausted.