Hands on the shoulder of the one in front of them, they moved in a line through nutritional assessment then waited to be seen by a medical provider. Each had a different expression, some smiling, some not so sure of what to expect, some showing nervousness, some taking everything in and some just looked like they had been through this before. I remember one little boy in particular. He was shy, eyes downcast, hands twisting inside of each other, and feet moving from side to side. I watched him as he went to get weighed and then measured for height. He never looked up, obeyed instructions and moved from one station to another. One always questions coincidences or at least I do. Out of the 15 medical examiners, the hundreds of children we were seeing, the line moving at a pace that resembled a quiet chaos of order, he was brought to me. Coincidence, I think not. He sat down in front of me, eyes diverted, ignoring my smiles, my hand on his, and my gentle assurance that all will be well. Sitting back, I looked at him and stayed silent for a moment. I did not have an interpreter, so I took a chance.
“Do you know who I am?” I asked in English. He did not reply.
“Do you know why you are here?” He didn’t look up. I thought how silly of me to expect him to understand English and to respond. I tried another approach.
“Can I hold your hand? Will you let me listen to your heart?” He looked up making contact with my eyes. He reached out his hand. I took it. We sat like that for a few moments, not saying anything. I held his hand and smiled. And he smiled back. I leaned in and put my stethoscope on his chest and I heard his heart beating fast, and as I listened some more holding his hand, I heard his heart beat slow, his breathing more regular and his hand resting comfortably in mine.
I asked an interpreter sitting at another table to ask this little boy if he spoke English. The little boy when asked shook his head no. He smiled at me, and reached out for both of my hands now and held tight. I held tight too and then asked him if I could finish examining him. He said nothing but let go of my hands. I finished examining him, the whole time of which he look at me and smiled.
When I was done, I filled out his form, gave him his plastic bag that he would use to get his vitamins, his tooth brush, a small gift, stickers, and an antibiotic I prescribed for his ear infection. He stood, started to walk away then stopped. He turned, looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. I watched him for a long time as he made his way in the line through all the rest of the stations. As he came to the last one, he turned around again and smiled at me one more time. I smiled back. He was 5 years old. How did all this happen? Did he understand English? I’ll never know. But all that is a never mind. I remember what I told the team the first day about expectations and that it is all about what we leave behind. I’ll never forget him, and I hope he never forgets me. I have no reason to try and figure this whole thing out, to dwell on the whys and the how’s, because for me the expectation on this trip was that I would see God’s hand touch those who we came to see and I did. I believe that He gave that child a listening heart that understood me and He gave me a patient heart to trust that He would be there for all of us. I saw it all during the week. A team of 31 servants who had listening and patient hearts, giving of themselves to the 1500 children who we saw this week.
Until our next trip in October to India, in all things give thanks,