Even as a child I felt called to serve in Europe. I would spend hours and hours reading books set in Europe, dreaming of when I could go. I constantly searched flights. Europe was always on my mind.
A few years ago, someone came to my church to talk about a place called Moldova. I never had heard about this place and after frantically googling where it was, I discovered it was in Europe. I watched the short clip detailing the lives that orphans lived there. I saw the atrocious and inhumane abuses that boys and girls were subjected to; instantly, my heart broke and I decided Moldova was a place I had to visit.
It was a fleeting dream that I never thought would become a reality. However, there happened to be an opportunity to go on a trip there in the coming fall. I had my in, and despite the large amount of money I had to raise and the time I would be away from school, I committed almost immediately.
September finally came and I visited Moldova. The second I stepped outside of the airport I felt this sense of belonging, almost as if I had been there thousands of times before. I felt comfortable and inexplicably like I was where I was supposed to be, which is completely insane considering I had very limited knowledge of the culture, language, or customs. Yet, there was this moment of pure belonging, something I had never had before. We had a chance to meet the girls and guys at the shelter, and also travel to a local orphanage. The experiences I had there changed me. It became a conviction to return. That was my first time in Moldova.
Nine months later I was given yet another opportunity to return to Moldova. I was anxious to get back, as there wasn’t one day in those nine months I didn’t think about Moldova.
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On my second trip, we had the absolutely amazing opportunity to help out at one of the orphanages. To be able to love on those kids was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I gave my whole self to the kids in hope that I would be able to show love in spite of the language and cultural barriers. At the end of the trip, I loved those as if they were my own; they truly hold a special place in my heart.
I think participating in service like this is so vital. So many times we can get stuck in the cycle of “what can I do for ME, how can I improve MYSELF, what am I doing to change MYSELF, how am I helping MYSELF?” and although these are important questions to ask (especially in the beginning of your recovery), there is also something rewarding in giving back, in doing something outside of yourself.
I think there comes a time when it is very healthy to step out of your comfort zone and do something that may scare you, because it causes you to adapt.
I know when I was depressed I never adapted. I just stayed stagnant, never changing, always letting the elements around me affect me in the worst way. I realized stepping out of the world around you can be so vital and so healthy. However, with all that being said, I don’t think I am in the position to say when that time is for you – it could be a year, it could be five, it could be six months. It all depends on your situation, and I would say that it is vital to go over these potential choices with your counsellor or psychiatrist.
With the holidays coming up quickly (I can’t help to get super-childishly-excited during the lead-up to the holidays), there is always an opportunity to give back. I’m not saying that you have to go to the other side of the world and go work in an orphanage – please don’t think I am championing about some organization. I think there are really practical things you can do right in your own community. Buy a family’s dinner one night at a restaurant, buy a homeless person a meal, give cans to a food bank, or participate in a fundraiser around town.
There are so many opportunities, especially during the holiday seasons to give back. Once you start doing this, you will begin to feel liberated. Although it is you giving of yourself, you also gain so much: self-worth, a sense of pride, and it really can help you so much with your recovery.
Often the the benefits of being generous and selfless are taken for granted, when it really has the capacity to change your life. I know it changed mine.
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