March 18, 2020


**This post was supposed to be published the week of the Fourth of July...of 2019, but being in the middle of the ocean without internet at the time thwarted my plans since it never actually published when I hit the "publish" button. And yes, it is March of 2020, but this is a post worthy to be read & shared any time of the year, so here it is! I've also added some more to this post regarding current events in light of the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic in italics. Also, crazy to think that I was on a cruise ship when I originally wrote this post.**

Freedom sure is sweet!

All of my life, I have lived a life of freedom. But often I forgot to acknowledge and appreciate my freedom. I thought I lacked freedom when I had to follow my parents' rules. I thought I lacked freedom when I had to sit in a classroom and listen to my teachers. I thought I lacked freedom when I was enduring 30 hour calls during residency. I have fleeting thoughts that I lack freedom when I'm confined to my home during social distancing.

But in reality, I have had all of the freedoms. The freedom to play outside, the freedom to learn, the freedom to speak my heart, the freedom to love, the freedom to choose my career, the freedom to travel, etc.

Many years ago, my eyes were opened to the injustices that 40+ million people around the world face as they live as modern-day slaves. And it is not only happening in developing countries. It is happening in your own cities and backyards!

Human trafficking is an injustice that we need to stop turning our faces away from and fight for the freedoms of these people. When it comes to issues this large, it often seems daunting to face. What can I, a young woman living in the land of the free, do to bring an end to human trafficking? Where does one even start?

Well, good news! There are many organizations doing so much good around the world. I know that there can be a lot of negative connotations when we think of organizations moving into developing areas, because many times, these organizations are doing more harm than good unintentionally.

However, there are SO many incredible organizations helping instead of hurting. They are rescuing men, women and children from slavery. They are providing safe homes for those rescued. They are providing resources to help them recover from the horrors they faced and bring them hope with therapy, training and jobs. They are spurring on governments and law enforcement to crack down on perpetrators of human trafficking.

Some of my favorite organizations that I support are:

While some may feel confined or feel like it's "unfair" to be told to stay home, remember that we are SO blessed to have the freedoms we do have. We can still vote for our leaders, we can still learn, we can still choose our careers, we can still go outside for a walk, we can still speak freely without fear of being incarcerated or beaten or killed, etc. And we will again have the freedom to travel the world, to eat out at restaurants and to meet with friends. But for now, we have the freedom to love others well by making wise decisions about where we go, who we are around and choosing to stay put. I've found it helpful to start each day with thankfulness and focusing on what I DO have instead of the restrictions I may be facing. Today I'm thankful for my freedoms, my health, for Facetime, for my community, for my friends and family who have been texting/calling to encourage me and pray over me as I go to work and care for patients in this time, and that my grandparents are still healthy and can still smile through this season of life.

Some friends have also reached out to me asking about how they can help those in need during this time or have given me information about which organizations need our help from afar. So I compiled a list and will be adding more as I find more:

Photography: Ashlee O'Neil

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