Sunday, June 19, 2011

Everything I've Been Missing Without Your Eyes

May 27th (Friday) 2011
3:36 p.m.

Yesterday, Pii Phet and Kara and I visited someone in Chiang Rai's government hospital. Translation slip ups and language barriers gave me the impression that we would be paying a call on a grown man; I was utterly unprepared to end up wandering through the children's ward. To visit a girl hardly younger than myself that was diagnosed with the life-stealing disease of HIV/AIDS.
Like I said, it was the government hospital, so treatment for all patients was free. Bad bit was that the patients would wait, sometimes days, for that free treatment. And there they were, the sick, lining the corridors with their blank, hopeless gazes and dirtied sheets. Absolutely no privacy, and--a lot of times, it appeared--absolutely no company. In pain, alone and humiliated--my heart ached with compassion.
Grandmothers with lifeless eyes; old men with black gums and black soles. Kara was upset because of the conditions: swarms of flies ruthlessly bombarding the patients, soiled sheets, dirtied hospital robes, etc. etc. What upset me was how unmistakably familiar it all was. I saw, and I remembered mornings spent walking the hallways of nursing homes back in the States with my family and/or homeschool group. I always secretly hated those visits. The weird, old people lining the rooms in their wheelchairs, just staring at you. Some of them were hateful, some O.C.D., others just...senile. I was always selfish, snobby, and awkward during those visits... Yet, the people I waled past yesterday--the skeletal frames, gappy mouths, and sad eyes--, I wanted to help them?

But they're just like the people back home. This is nothing new, you've seen this before. Why do you care now?

That's all I could think about as I made my way up the stairwells. Not the flies, not the living conditions, just how everyone was so lonely--and how I never cared before.
Why? Why have I never cared before? I wanted to grab a good Jane Austen novel, right then and there, and plop down among all those old, sick grandmothers and grandfathers and read to them until they didn't feel lonely anymore. I wanted to dance into the children's ward with a bright skirt, bells along the hem jangling around my bare feet, and maracas in hand and bring some joy where there was so much remorse, so much sorrow. Why? Why have I never cared before? How could I not care? How can I even claim to be a Christian (a "little Christ"), like Christ, and yet have so little compassion for so long? How could I go there, and then just...leave? How could I not leave completely changed from who I was just a few hours before?
I was not prepared for yesterday. I have never seen so many lonely, sick and hopeless children before. I pray it brought joy to at least one of them, or else my heartache would be in vain. The girl, hardly younger than myself, and her mother who we visited--did we encourage them? The Buddhist couple whose ill infant we prayed over--did that mean anything to them?
Well, it meant a lot to me.

"Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity"

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this poignant reminder, Betsie.

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