After a particularly long week filled with late hours, emotional encounters with difficult people and situations, and less than an ideal amount of sleep, I knew I needed to first spend some time alone today, and then I needed to spend some time with patients. I needed to be reminded why I am here.
At 2:30 most every day our patients make their way up from the belly of the ship, where the only light is the flourescent variety and the air is pumped in through vents, up to the open expanse of deck 7. There they enjoy the sunshine on their faces and whispered breaths of the breeze on their cheeks; the littlest ones with their little cat-wisker steri-strips (cleft lip repairs) get passed from willing arms to willing arms and the older kids, with various bandages and stitches and scars, zip around on tricycles and in wagons. The adults talk on their cell phones, or just stare into the expanse that is the Atlantic Ocean, the sun dancing on the waves and little speedboats zipping back and forth.
I expected to go up and hold a baby for an hour or so but what ended up happening was very different. As I was walking by, a beautiful woman of probably 40 grabbed my hand and pulled me towards her. I squatted down in front of her and looked her in the eye, her hands both now gripping mine. She probably hadn't ever had anyone look her in the eye or touch her before she came to the ship; her face was ravaged by Noma, a particularly nasty third-world infection that destroys facial tissue. She didn't speak a word of French or English so for the next thirty minutes we held hands, I rubbed her shoulders, she played with my hair, I smiled into her eyes, and we spoke the language that transcends cultures and borders and diseases and disfigurements and scars and bandages. Love was spoken, it lit up her beautiful scarred face and soothed my bruised and weary heart. This is why we are here; this is the heart of God for his people, this is what I was created for.
My heart is full.