Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Monday, May 30, 2016
So long and so far away. Well, not really. 80 kilometers and 2 hours and a half to get to where we were going. Dirt roads, with ruts and holes, made the progress slow. And so the question is posed: how far do we go to help those in need? The answer: as far as we need to.
This being the first day of clinic for our team, the start was a little slow. The electronic medical record system failed due to a router issue so we went back to paper. A little spiritual warfare ongoing. Not willing to accept defeat, we said fine, and got out our pens and went back to old school record keeping. So there Satan.
The children were for the most part moderately healthy, with evidence of malnutrition the main finding. Skin rashes, scabies, worms and some upper respiratory infections noted. So all in all, a relatively good day. Except…wait for it… the child with only one shoe and the child with fainting spells or as we found out, seizures. I’ll tell you about the child with “fainting spells”. Eight years ago, for no apparent reason, he started having seizures, each lasting 30 minutes or more with a postictal period (unconscious period of recovery after a seizure) of up to three hours. He was been seen by a neurologist and started on an anticonvulsant. He has not attended school for last 3 years. So what now? He is clearly mentally challenged, shy, withdrawn and afraid. He sat in front of me as I examined him, his eyes never looking up. Speaking in gentle tones, I reassured his mother and him that with some minimal changes, he would one again be able to attend school. All that is needed is an adjustment of his medication, some one-on-one care with a special needs teacher and an opportunity for him to belong to the community. But truth be told, it isn’t going to happen. We’ll adjust his medications, but there is no special needs program or a special needs teacher in the project that we are in. Remote is what remote is. Bush country is what bush country is. So you say then, what did we accomplish? Well, the answer may not be what you want to hear. His seizures will eventually be under control, but he may not go back to school. Stigma is a big part of this culture. If you aren’t normal, you’re not welcomed. What we did accomplish was that after a long while of just sitting and being present when present, he looked at me and smiled. And so did his weeping mother. She told us that this was the first time in a very long time that he smiled and thank us. She thanked us for not pushing him away because he was “broken”. It’s not what we bring, but what we leave behind, isn’t it?
In all things give thanks,
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Monday, May 23, 2016
Say it like it is. Why do we go and why do we care? I’ve been asking these questions for several years now, and the answers are becoming more evident. The answers are simple: we go because we are told and we care because we care. Not bad answers are they. No need for explanations, for arguments, for neither a display of defensive maneuvers nor a liturgy of words. Just say it like it is. So I’ll do that.
We leave for Kenya in a few days, 27 of us from the US, meeting up with our 11 Kenyan partners, 9 of whom are our healthcare workers who we trained several years ago. We’ll be traveling to Kajiado for the first part of our medical ministry, and then a small group will travel to the northern part of the country, bush country, in Turkana. We’ll see those who come to us and give what we have, leaving behind the most important aspect of human caring: genuine kindness.
There is always the question as to whether genuine kindness is good enough. Shouldn’t we be giving medicines, ensuring continued good health, hygiene, clean drinking water and all things related to a better and healthier life? Of course. And it should be sustainable. But the reality is, all of that is hard to come by, no matter our best intentions. Some of it may flourish, but some may not. So what can we guarantee will be sustainable? For me it is the time we spend with those who come to us, giving them our undivided attention, recognizing them as persons, smiling, holding their hand, listening and yes, hearing their story, being intentional, accountable and giving them the dignity of being who they are without judging or question. Simply, being present when present.
That is what we will be doing. It’s not hard. It just takes commitment and a willingness to give unconditionally. Say it like it is: it’s not what we bring but what we leave behind.
In all things give thanks,