I was very fortunate to spend this past Christmas and New Years in Fiji. As a Pilates instructor, I anticipated that I might be asked to teach, and was delighted to teach two classes to new friends, spanning in age from 5 to 50. The five-year-old completed a whole class! For me, the effects I feel from teaching are almost as good as taking a session myself. I finished each class buzzing with love, happiness and exuberation.

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What I didn’t expect to experience in Fiji was assisting a pediatric dentist in treating dozens of Fijian children, some of whom had never seen a dentist. The dentist was also a guest where we were staying (and took the Pilates classes!), hoping to volunteer her services to as many children as possible during her visit.

On a trip to a nearby village, we were treated to a wonderful lunch and then the dentist began to pass out toothbrushes to the village children. I instinctively jumped up to help. After giving instruction on brushing, she sat at the end of a bed forming a makeshift dental chair in a tiny bedroom teeming with curious children parading in and out and peering through the windows. With no assistant, she asked whoever was present to dig up her mirrors, fluoride and brushes. Before I knew it, I was right there next to her, gloves on, learning the lingo and ready to assist.

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It’s beautiful and strange when these opportunities present themselves because they just float down from the Universe. There is no effort needed and no resistance. You just start working as if you’d done it a million times before.

Two days later, we arrived by boat on the Fijian Island of Rabi (home since 1945 to the displaced Banabian population – a sad story in its own right). We were there to treat more children and I knew I must volunteer. Knowing I was up for the task but that I had no dental training, I asked the dentist if there was anything else I needed to know in advance of the children arriving. She calmly and sweetly said, “no, I don’t want your head swimming with information. Just follow your intuition and you’ll know what I need.” She was right.

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Because of the lack of dental care and the introduction of candy in Fiji, especially in the more remote villages, tooth decay and infections are common and, if untreated, can become very serious. Only one of the children in the dozens we saw did not need a filling or extraction and, unfortunately, extractions were the norm. Nonetheless, the children were brave, joyful and beautiful. After having two teeth extracted, one girl went on to perform the traditional dance for us (below picture: bottom left). She has stolen my heart.

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Fulfilling this unexpected purpose in Fiji showed me something powerful. You enter a situation (a Fijian vacation) thinking maybe you can contribute something (Pilates), but then you find you are also there for an entirely different reason (helping kids!), a purpose that was designed just for you, waiting, without your knowledge or intent. By being present, willing and open, you are gifted with a truly rewarding experience.

In the healing community, they say “give a healing, get a healing.” By following my intuition, I was led where I was needed, not only teaching Pilates, but the extraordinary experience helping kids with dental needs and enjoying their stunning traditional dance. Upon returning from Rabi, another guest joked, “this was supposed to be your vacation – you didn’t sign up for this!” My response was, “I guess I did” – or the Universe did for me. And I’m a happy participant.

If you would like to contribute to helping the children of Fiji get access to dental care, please donate here.