Saturday, May 9, 2009

Where the Heart Is...

Haitian Country Side

Good Evening All,
Tonight we had a nice cookout to say goodbye to Mike Jones. He is one of our 90 day docs and a great guy. Mike and I have known each other for over ten years and having him here was like a little bit of home for us.

We have been busy. In addition to our normal patient load, Travis and I have had to deal with the inevitable up coming swine flu epidemic. I say that with a little sarcasm mixed with a little fear as I pray that the threat will fizzle out. We have put together a tent city that is isolated so that we can quarantine any infected soldier. If a patient has a positive nasal swab for influenza, even if it is Type A influenza, we isolate the patient. The reason for this is that we can only get a rapid influenza on these patients. The confirmatory nasal wash has to be sent back to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and that can take weeks. The process to put together this emergency protocol takes up a great deal of our time. Three meetings a week at the hospital just to deal with this topic.

Thankfully, Travis and I tag team it. Travis is much better at these administrative issues than I am and he has a photographic memory which is scary. All in all though, I think that we should handle any influenza case without too much trouble.

I have been troubled by a couple of things this week and I would like to share them with you and ask for your prayers. Within the last week we had a soldier who found out that his wife wanted a divorce. Unfortunately, this type of situation occurs all too frequently. This soldier is one of our finest. I had the honor of pinning on his stripes when he made sergeant. The news came as a complete shock to him and he was devastated. Our command decided that he needed to go home and try to salvage his marriage.

What I always think about when this happens is the pain that comes when one person falls out of love and the other is still holding on. The pain is real. Every part of your body aches and often times you plunge into a state of emotional depression. When I heard about this soldier’s situation, my heart immediately went out to him. I have been in relationships that did not end under the best of circumstances and I found myself swimming in a sea of anger, confusion, and despair. I was unprepared for the pain that followed and I literally went through the five stages of grieving which are: 1. Denial and Isolation 2. Anger 3. Bargaining 4. Depression and finally 5. Acceptance. I think in every relationship that goes sour, some, if not all of these stages are experienced. At the end of the day the last stage is often times, never really achieved. I often think that there should be a sixth stage of grieving and that is the stage of feeling foolish. Foolish for allowing such a situation to occur and foolish for allowing vulnerability to pierce our armor, foolish for trusting so much.

It is really tough to give your heart away and then have your gift rejected. The pain of a broken relationship clouds the mind and can cause us to do things that a rational person would never do. This scenario is happening much too often in our soldiers who are deployed. The pain is compounded by the fact that we are all so far from home and feel helpless to try and resolve the relationship.
I pray for this young man as I know the pain that he is experiencing and I pray that his marriage can be salvaged. When two people have invested so much into each other, I think it is important to make what ever changes that needs to be made and try to reestablish that love that once bound so tightly.

The other thing that has been bothering me is a recurrent dream. Ten years ago or so, I went to Haiti on a short term mission. I went with my brother-in-law and two other guys. We went down there as a Christian mission and I ended up spending time working in one of the medical clinics. Well, one day we went to the market in Jacmel and it was one of those typical third world places, you know a place where the meat is hung on a hook with flies buzzing around. Grain poured out on the ground for purchase and merchants all pleading for business.

As I walked around the market, I felt someone tug my shirt. I looked around and saw a pretty little girl of about 4 years of age. She was dressed in a floral dress which was stained from prolonged wear without washing and her olive skin colored face was streaked with dirt. She looked up to me and said something in Creole which is the primary language in Haiti. I did not understand her language but what she wanted was perfectly clear. She wanted some money so that she could buy food. I looked around and did not see her parents or anyone who was responsible for this child. Unfortunately, this is all too common in Haiti. The average life span is only 44 years. So, children end up raising their siblings if they even have siblings. Otherwise they are on their own.

Anyway, we had been told not to give anything to beggars as it would only encourage others to come running over and it wouldn’t take long to be overwhelmed. I kneeled down to look at this child so that we could see eye to eye. I smiled and told her how pretty she was. I am sure that she did not understand me, but she smiled right back and immediately we had a connection. I reached into my pocket and gave her some change which in conversion probably amounted to less than a dollar. I said goodbye to her and continued on my way. As I walked around looking at market items this little girl followed me. She was no longer asking me for money but just quietly following along behind me. I finished my shopping and we left.

Over the years, I have thought about this girl. I wondered why she was following me. I thought that perhaps she expected something tangible from me but the more I think about it, I have come to the conclusion that she just wanted someone to spend time with her. She had been so isolated in the crowd and she was hungry and she was alone. I have recently been dreaming about this young lady. Her face has haunted my dreams. I regret that I did not turn back around and spend time with her. I regret that I didn’t give her more than I did. I regret that I allowed my heart to harden enough to be able to walk away.

I have spent much of my adult years travelling to places all over the world and the one constant that I find is that, we in America are so blessed. Our streets are not littered with the bloated bellies of the hungry. Common diseases are not epidemic and our basic needs of food, water, and shelter are denied no individual. We are so blessed.I am not sure why I have been dreaming about this little angel. Perhaps the Lord is reminding me of the responsibility that we have to use our blessings to help others. I am so in awe of those who go to the mission field and devote their lives to caring for other. I pray that my life is worthy of the hope that this little girl had in me. I am afraid I failed her, but that will not happen again.

I pray that the Lord softens your heart to the needs of others. Different faces, different skin color, different languages, does not separate the bonds that hold us together. We are siblings, children of God and we have a responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Take time if you would, to thank the Lord for the gifts that he has given you. And remember, with blessings comes responsibilities. I pray that the Lord touches your heart today and that He puts people and situations in your life that will allow you to use your blessings for the building of His Kingdom.

I want to thank you for reading this blog tonight. I know it was longer than usual but I have had a heavy heart about these matters and it does me good to share these concerns with you. Thanks for lending me your ear.

Take care and be safe.


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