Tuesdays this summer are dedicated to travel. Ever since I was little, travel has been a part of my life. My dad led medical teams of physicians and dentists into Central & South America when I was in elementary school. They would set up clinics in remote and impoverished areas and I tagged along whenever possible.
This is a picture of me somewhere in Guatemala ( I think ) holding the child whose memory still follows me today. The clinic had been set up in the middle of the mountains and people came for miles just to see one of our doctors.
The waiting room was full of locals willing to stay for hours. This may be their only chance for medical care & they would not miss it. I generally spent my time sitting with those who were waiting. On a particularly hot day, a mother walked in with her baby.
There was something about that baby. I knew it the moment I saw them come through the door. Such a tenderness in his face. I smiled at the mother who didn’t speak English. She smiled at the young American girl who didn’t speak Spanish. The little boy eventually found himself in my arms. If my memory is right, I held him while the mother saw a physician.
I walked that boy up and down the dirty floor and waved the flies away from his face. My mom passed by and asked if I knew the child I was holding had Down’s Syndrome. I hadn’t noticed until then. My arms tightened around his little body. I suddenly loved him even more.
My mind was too innocent to know what his life would look like in the Guatemalan mountains as he grew up. But I knew enough to know that it would be hard.
Waiting, we held each other. The Guatemalan baby and the American girl. In that moment, I discovered the power of touch.
In that moment it was just two kids. Two kids who lived worlds apart and yet shared this space in time. This sweaty, smelly & crowded waiting room.
I remember thinking to myself how awful it was that I couldn’t do anything to make the situation better. I couldn’t secure a stable income for them, meet his medical needs or ensure that he would be surrounded by people who love him.
I felt his little fingers playing with a piece of my hair and realized all he really needed from me was to be held.
To touch his life. Right here. Right now.
His mother came out, got her medicine, took her baby & was on her way. But I have never forgotten that little boy.
I learned a lesson that day in a Guatemalan waiting room. I learned how important it is to touch people, really touch them.
To engage and hold each other in our vulnerable moments. Knowing that God holds us even more tightly than we ever could.
Those moments of pure humanity are the things that make life so beautiful.
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