The Greatest Fear - Our Own Irrelevance
Posted July 7, 2010

In the last two entries I attempted to identify the multiple dimensions and illustrate the gravity of the problem facing the disabled and abandoned children of China. In this blog, I want to address another of those haunting questions which accompanied me on my journey.

During the decision making process, planning, and ultimate departure for a destination orphanage on the other side of the planet, I received this question repeatedly, “What lasting impact, what difference can you possibly make in just two weeks?” This inquiry, which was posed by friends, colleagues, and my family, defined the only true fear I had; my own irrelevance.

Of course I did not want to burden my husband, children, and patients with my absence if the whole trip was pointless. The fact is I had absolutely no answer to this nauseating question. I truly did not know what could be or would be accomplished. I simply felt led.

After spending some time getting to know our young team, I realized I was not the only one wrestling with this fear. Fortunately, the angels at ICC, the children and young adults at the orphanage, and the Chinese nationals gave us the greatest gift we could receive. They readily accepted every gift, expertise, talent, and extension of love we had to offer.

We immediately settled in to different areas of the welfare center and ICC run orphanage. Many, many gifts were given and received and lives changed on both sides.

Da Da Before
That is just the beautiful way it works.   

Personally, I had the opportunity to work closely with Alison and Galina, the two international ICC therapists, providing seating and positioning input for those with significant neuromuscular impairment. The little girls in the fifth flat had wonderfully stable wooden chairs but benefitted from some additional interventions to provide them more boundaries and support for their extremely low muscle tone.

These two photos of Da Da show a bit of what we were trying to accomplish. 

Alison already had phenomenal connections with a Chinese gentleman in Hengyang who quickly created the seating components we requested. He constructed, padded, and covered thigh guides and lateral supports, and he made anti-gravity wooded wedges so the girl’s chairs could be rotated from a functional position upright to a rest position tilted about 40 degrees off gravity.

This photo of Ling Ling with her chair on the wedge shows her seated in a rest position, stable, and aligned. Now all she needs is a set of wheels.  

This experience reminds me of a story I heard long ago about a little boy and a starfish. Walking alone one morning a little boy encounters hundreds of starfish washed up along the beach. Seeing each starfish suffering with a grinding need to breathe, the boy reaches down and begins to toss the starfish back into the water one by one.

Just then an older gentleman walks up beside him and asks, “What are you doing? There must be thousands of starfish along this beach. Each time the tide comes back in, hundreds more are deposited. What possible difference can you make?”

The little boy looks at the old man, thinks for a moment, and reaches down tossing another starfish back into the sea.

“Well,” turning back to face the gentleman, “I made a difference to that one.”

There were a number of young boys in a different area of the orphanage with more positioning needs. We took the opportunity to use these little guys for an instructional session together with the PT students and the Chinese nationals training under ICC to be therapy techs.

Bing Bing Mat Eval Best
We completed mat assessments and went over some ideas for interventions to address the different needs. Similar to the young therapy techs in the welfare center these Chinese nationals were intent and hungry for information, and the interaction with the doctorate level PT students from the U.S. was priceless. The entire experience was a poignant reminder that when we teach we can have exponential reach

All in all I believe we positively touch lives. Many of which, we will never be aware.

Were we relevant?

Did we impact the problem in all the ways we would hope?

Are these questions ours to ask? Are these answers ours to judge?

The problem of relevance is inherent in the limitations of the term. This concept is static, and life is dynamic. Relevance is something we strive for, want to have, and wish to hold on to. But for us humans, trapped in space and time, the search for relevance is a search in the past. By the time something is judged as relevant it is gone. It is meaningless really. What is important is the reality of the moment. Are we living it, pouring into it, aware of it, being present for it?

My final thoughts are these, “Why didn’t Jesus simply wave his hand and heal the entire village?”

“Why doesn’t God swoop down and obliterate evil, suffering, and oppression with a bolt of lightning?”

I believe the answer is because this would place His relevance in the past.

Our Creator chooses a living relationship. She chooses to dynamically soften and change the hearts of individuals. He chooses one to one interaction, touch, and healing…

Throwing us back into the life giving water, one starfish at a time.

Our greatest fear may be our own irrelevance, but perfect love drives out all fear.

1 John 4:18

If you are interested in the Hand in Hand ICC child sponsorship program visit

Thank you for the opportunity to share.