There is something magical about the combination of helping others while receiving nothing tangible in return that gets into your soul and takes you on a magical journey.
Jessica Braithwaite is a mother of five, lives in Highland, Utah, and has been on many magical journeys throughout her life.
I met Jessica four years ago as she volunteered at my annual basketball camp. She was busy helping children sign up, get their T-shirts, name tags and welcome them to camp.
It didn’t take me long to see she was swallowed up in the joy of service.
When I asked her about the importance of service, Jessica said, “It is such a gift to have the opportunity to serve, you can’t help someone else without helping yourself.”
Jessica, who now works for the Little Heroes Foundation, recently flew to Nepal, leaving her family behind, and helped open a health clinic.
Situated between India and China, Nepal is the poorest country in Asia. With an estimated 30 million people living there, many Nepalese people live on $1 a day or less and 85 percent of the people have no access to health care.
Jessica went to Nepal in November 2011. She spent one week in Nepal, walking hours and hours to provide free health services to people in rural areas. She rode elephants, met amazing people and coordinated the official opening of the Sunshine Heroes Health Clinic, named after the Little Heroes Foundation and its founding sponsor, Nature's Sunshine Products in Provo.
After a long walk to a school located in an rural area, Jessica met a woman named Kamala, who had walked six hours to the free health clinic. Jessica first met Kamala’s son, who she thought was 6 but discovered later he was 11. Doctors told Jessica that he was severely malnourished and had other health problems including a severe infection in his foot.
While doctors examined the young boy, Kamala held Jessica’s hands, touched her face and was curious to know, see and touch the first Caucasian she had ever seen. As Kamala aided her, she spoke of her happiness, joy and how blessed she was to have a wonderful family. She also spoke of her husband, a hard-working farmhand, and the hard life she is enduring.
Most days, Kamala, alongside her husband and children, work from five in the morning till dark harvesting the crops. They live on less than $20 a month and struggle to survive.
“Kamala was my shadow, she followed me everywhere, wanted to hold my hands and be by my side; she was such a sweet woman,” said Jessica.
“Kamala’s hands had the toughest skin, they were dirty and full of callouses from working so hard.”
Jessica quickly learned that she and Kamala had a lot in common. They were both mothers of five children; they were the same age and they loved to serve people.
Unfortunately, one of the many things Jessica and Kamala do not have in common is access to health care. Kamala, her husband, and her children had never seen a doctor in their life, like many of the people in Nepal.
Can you imagine living your whole life, giving birth and raising five children while never having access to a doctor, antibiotics or any type of health care?
Kamala was touched by Jessica’s kindness and her willingness to leave her comfortable life and travel around the world to help her, her son and the people of Nepal.
When Jessica returned from her trip, she reported to the governing board of Little Heroes, sharing many amazing experiences and gave an update on the health clinic.
The health clinic opened its doors to more than 2,000 people during the first week, and it is estimated that more than 20,000 people this year will receive health care services there. Kamala’s son was able to receive the treatment he needed, and he continues to visit the health clinic when needed with his mother.
Jessica recalls, “The Nepalese people are the kindest, happiest, most grateful people. After my trip to Nepal, I promised myself to never complain again about problems in the U.S. We are very blessed.”
In fact, according to Chad Hymas, who was inducted into the prestigious National Speaker's Hall of Fame, “If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won’t survive this week. If you never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 20 million people around the world. If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death, you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back and a roof over your head, you are richer than 75 percent of this world.”
When we focus so much on ourselves and our own well-being. We miss the chance to look around and bless the lives of others within our own circle of influence.
When you give to another person, you are, in essence, admitting that you have an understanding of the grand scheme of human kindness. You are living on a level beyond selfishness, beyond greed, beyond your personal needs. You are living in your higher self.
Service to others is about giving something that no other human on earth could possibly give — you!
Looking for a great way to serve others? Jessica has an answer to help serve those close to you.
“I have a checklist I call the worry list. Whomever is on that list I make sure I call them everyday and I just listen.”
It is about finding what is rare and divine in your soul that you would like to share with the world. Service to others is about digging deep into the caverns of your abilities, your talents and your personality, and finding the gift that you want to share with humanity.
The Scottish evangelist Henry Drummond once said, “You will find, as you look back on life, that the moments that stand out are the moments when you have done things for others.”
In the application of service, the toughest thing to give is your time. It is is a priceless gift and one all of us possesses. Do we spend it well?
I am in awe of how immersed people become in the routine of helping others and how they create and then convey it, teach it, fine-tune it and shape it, to its final beautiful story.
After years of watching special people like Jessica do good around the world and seeing all the inspiration it has provided others, I am left humbled, inspired and, once again, amazed at the power of service to unite and connect people soul to soul.
Nepal is half a world away, but the magical rewards of service can be at all of our doorsteps.
Travis Hansen is a former BYU, NBA (Atlanta Hawks) and Euroleague basketball player. He co-founded the Little Heroes Foundation and is married with three children.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company