I wrote recently about the power of stepping outside ourselves, our own drama and mess and heartbreak by, volunteering in some capacity. This month I took my own advice and just returned from a mission trip to Peru, an organ short maybe but with a deep and abiding sense of just how blessed I am.

Why Peru?

Why did I go to Peru? I’ve written before about the sudden hearing loss I experienced 5 years ago in one ear. I had my own little drama and mess and heartbreak. That’s when I found Starkey Hearing Foundation I’ve been volunteering and donating to this incredible organization ever since.

I just returned from my second mission with SHF, this time to Peru, where I encountered the warm, gracious people of Cusco and Lima. Some had been deaf since birth. Others had hearing loss related to age. None would have made a best dressed list. Few had all their teeth. Many had waited hours and hours before being brought to my station, essentially a chair in the middle of a concrete slab. There I tested various powers and settings of hearing aids to find the right fit. With each one, I formed the sound “bah, bah, bah” over and over in one ear and then the other as I adjusted the volume, waiting for the huge smile of wonder and delight which erupted with hearing. Some would then repeat the sound, others would dance in their chairs and many would drop a tear or two. As did I.

What I didn’t do.

What didn’t I do? I didn’t think about the slight hearing loss I live with. I didn’t think about the stove which may be dying at home or the work I’d left undone at the office or my website which needs updating or what I’m going to wear to that event I’m attending later this month or the argument I’d recently had with a family member. Stepping outside of my own little cosmos I recognized that there are others who also have problems, some far larger than my own. I returned terribly grateful for the size of my own, aware of the blessings which overshadow them like an eclipse.

It’s not necessary to go to Peru. There’s plenty of need right where we are every day. It just requires taking the gaze off our own needs for a moment to recognize it. Perhaps it’s only once a month or once a week that we can find the time and summon the energy to help someone else. When our own resources are depleted, that’s hard. But I promise, you will return renewed and energized and profoundly aware of all the reasons you have to be grateful, even in the midst of whatever you’re dealing with right now. Fair warning: you may also return short a piece of your heart left behind for those with whom you worked.

This little girl was so sober and quiet…right up to the moment she first heard and turned toward me with the biggest smile all over her face!
It’s a small world. I met artist and Michigan State fan, Valentine, just outside our hotel in Cusco. Several times! I had to take his Pure Michigan photo but finally bought a piece of art from him as well. Stop by the St. Joseph office and see it sometime!
A bit apprehensive about volunteering? Take a friend and do it together. My sister-in-law Kim Goodwin, from Houston, joined me and absolutely doubled the pleasure of the whole experience!
Took time out to visit the famed Machu Picchu in Peru. Another heart lesson: our train was stopped for hours due to a rock slide. What did the SHF team do? Blared tunes through the train’s speaker system and danced in the aisle and on the benches until we were hoarse! You gotta make the best of things, right?
A surprise honor to have been recognized by Starkey Hearing Foundation with this placque at dinner one night!

Wishing you wisdom,

Deborah Bennet Berecz

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