I have fond memories of Borneo. My first visit to Kota Kinabalu last year was a highlight trip that was filled with images of beautiful sunsets, colorful fauna, clear water snorkeling and beautiful women. I made the most of my three free days there and looked forward to duplicating the experience – minus ogling the beautiful women of course. Unfortunately, my ship’s captain felt that we should all be working a full day in this port visit. On top of Mother Nature deciding not to waste her majestic sunsets on us. Needless to say, this journey to Kota Kinabalu was turning into a headache rather than a mind relaxer.
Yesterday I spent the morning dealing with the lovely Internal Revenue Services about some tax filing issues. Seems that I owe the government some money. I figure that since I volunteered for the military, they can consider us even. Uh no, lol. So yesterday morning I was sulking at the thought that the IRS was going to screw with my happiness and travel plans by taking some of my income. I was in one of those, “woe is me, why did I do ‘x’ instead of ‘y?’” states of being. At around 1400 though, I had to put my happy work face on and join some other sailors on a community service event at a local hospital here.
I volunteered to photograph the event with the understanding that we’d be visiting children in the hospital’s children’s ward. No amount of preparation can prepare a person for the sight of sick kids. The instant we walked into the playroom, we saw the children hooked up to dialysis machines, wearing surgical masks, and wearing smiles. Yes, smiles. Here were these little kids, some dealing with cancer, diabetes and other medically related illnesses, smiling as they saw us walk in.
Shy at first, but quick to warm up, the children entertained us and were entertained by sailors reading books to them, pushing them in their cars, throwing balls with them and simply giving them time. At each smile, each glow in their eyes, I forgot all about the monetary issues I had.
A child’s heart is enough to make the world seem like a happier place just when you think the world is out to get you. As we traveled by bus back to the ship, we passed these tin homes built on stilts that sit in polluted water. This is how many of the people live, every day. I look in my closet and I see Air Jordans. My problems pale in comparison to the man whose home is above a polluted river that he walks to with no shoes.