After spending this past week in paradise, a.k.a. St. Lucia, on warm, sunny beaches, in crystal clear waters, with nothing but the sun on my face and a beautiful, tropical breeze at my back, I’ve come to realize quite a few things about myself. With no cell phone service and very little internet access, my boyfriend and I were able, for the first time since, well, ever, to completely disconnect from the outside world. We had nothing to stress over, no responsibilities to be slave to, no work to think about, people to please, questions to answer, or schedules to live by. For seven glorious days and nights, we simply existed as the locals do – waking up without an alarm, eating when we’re hungry, doing anything we pleased or nothing at all if that was more to our liking. It’s amazing what something like that does for your mind, body, and soul. I feel rested, recharged, and refreshed – ready to face life again, though I wish I could have brought some St. Lucia weather to New Jersey!
St. Lucians absolutely embrace and live by their motto, ‘Live Slow’. To them, life is meant to be enjoyed, soaked up to the very last drop. The inhabitants of this lush, tropical island are – as a direct result, I believe – some of the happiest, most laid back people I’ve ever met. While a large majority of them live severely impoverished lives, they don’t seem to worry about it all that much. As long as they have clothes on their backs (which they’ve likely made), food on their tables (which they’ve grown themselves), and the ocean and sun outside their doors, they’ve got all they need as far as they’re concerned. What a stark, dramatic contrast to the people of America. As a whole, we are a greedy, self-serving nation, always on the lookout to acquire more, better, faster. The average American is leaps and bound, wealth-wise, ahead of the average St. Lucian, but when it comes to happiness and satisfaction, I’m afraid we pale in comparison.
As I sat on the beach, watching the comings and goings of the locals and, more often, the ‘liming’ or ‘slipping’ they do all day (their words for ‘hanging out’), I got to do a lot of thinking and reflecting. While I don’t know that I could be fully satisfied with a lifestyle as slow as theirs (though I wouldn’t exactly say no to a few months living as the St. Lucians do!), there was a lot to learn from these people: to take life one day, one hour, one minute at a time; to worry less and enjoy more; to embrace and relish in the everyday beauties in my life even if they don’t include a gorgeous paradise outside my window. Above all, though, the residents of St. Lucia have mastered one thing we all could use a bit more of: appreciation. While it’s certainly harder to appreciate things when the world around us is frozen, cold, and unrelenting, a deeper look reveals that there are countless things for which we should be thankful. Unwavering support from family. Unending laughs with friends. Unquestioning acceptance and love from significant others. Unconditional love and loyalty from pets. A roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and clean water at our fingertips. Our health, our voice, our ability to pursue any life we so choose. The list goes on and on.
Among other things, this much-needed break from life reaffirmed my desire to donate my kidney. Along with the support I’ve received, there have been the questions, the doubts, and the attempts to change my mind. To say I’m immune to these would be a lie. To say I’ve never had even the slightest shadow of a doubt bubble up would also be a lie. But despite it all, I’ve always felt deep down that I was meant to do this, and this trip rekindled that feeling and gave me the strength I need to power on in the face of adversity, suspicion, and coercing. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time…
Upon my return to the States and my reconnecting to the cellular world, I received a message alerting me that a possible match to receive my kidney had been located (and someone local, to boot!); crossmatch blood tests this upcoming Monday morning will confirm this and, if it turns out to be a false start, the NKR will get right back to looking for another possible match. Yet, if all goes well, the next step will be to set a date for surgery – THE surgery. Months and months of research, tests, trips to doctors, arguments, celebration, and endless waiting will finally come to fruition. And, most importantly, lives will be saved, improved, and forever changed. My recipient and the rest of the recipients in the chain, as well as their families, friends, and loved ones, will get a second chance: at life, at health, and at feeling (and appreciating) the sun on their faces and the wind at their backs.
The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness. [Dalai Lama]