In January I again had the great privilege to participate in a Mission Jamaica medical team. For one week, we provided medical consultation and basic medications to over 300 Jamaicans throughout Montego Bay and up into the mountains. While Jamaicans have access to primary care providers who diagnose and prescribe, these services often require waiting periods of hours to days, as well as miles of hitchhiking and/or walking, to reach their appointments. Many of the patients we saw reported arriving at their destinations only to find out that their prescribed medications are too expensive to be carried by the public pharmacies, leaving them to decide between paying prohibitively expensive prices for medications at private pharmacies or going without.
Throughout the week, all of us were pushed out of our comfort zones in the form of navigating language barriers, adjusting to the un-Minnesotan heat, assuming new work roles, confronting our own privileges, and grappling with the epidemic of inequity. I was fortunate to be able to immerse myself in these challenges, and noticed that as our team leaned into discomfort, we were able to be more vulnerable with ourselves and with each other. In the context of the theme of the week, resiliency, we discussed the importance of validating the goodness which was shining through the vulnerabilities of our friends, family members, coworkers, community members, and complete strangers.
We, in Minnesota, have a reputation for stoicism and understatements even when secretly bursting with excitement. This week encouraged me to ask, “What if I said it out loud? Of all the countless beautiful attributes I notice in people each day, how many do I actually voice?”
Jamaica is full of incredible people who continue to teach me not only how to trust in the Goodness in my community members, but to actually say it out loud! After a week basking in the Jamaican sun, it was the many thanks, affirmations, and validations shared with me by Jamaicans and our medical team, which kept me warm, even after returning to our subzero temperatures.