Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Boy with the Finger

I've been planning this post for a long time. 
I've been writing and rewriting it in my head for the past month, trying to come up with a way that my truest of true feeling will come across over the computer screen. And after spending several days in the hospital with my precious grandmother during the past week, I think I might finally be ready to talk about the boy with the finger. 

You might recall the post where I talked about teaching take away at a school in Uganda. Well, what I didn't mention in that post is that one of my students that day seemed withdrawn. He was very quiet and would barely make eye contact as I proceeded to talk about subtraction (can't say I blame him on this one; I'd rather eat dirt than sit through a math class, so.....). As class went on and they started to work in their 'workbooks' (I use this term loosely, as their workbook are really nothing more than some paper stapled together in which their teacher writes some problems for each lesson-- nothing like the fancy, topnotch workbooks we are used to), I made my way over to him and tried to talk to him.
 I say tried because although he does speak some English, actually communicating was tough. 

He looked at me as I tried to help him with his work. He didn't smile, just stared at me with his big, beautiful brown eyes. And as he tried to do his work, I noticed that he wasn't doing much with his left hand. I leaned forward a little,and then I saw his finger. 

It was literally more than twice as big as his other fingers, and the skin and tissues were so stretched and damaged that it almost looked as if he had frostbite. It made my stomach turn and my heart hurt. That has to be painful. My kids freak out at the first site of blood and will put ice on any and everything that even remotely hurts, and here he was with his finger and all that entails. 

As soon as class was over and we went to break, I took him to see my friend, Marci, who happens to be a nurse. She proceeded to look at his finger more closely and go through almost a whole bottle of peroxide in an attempt to reach a point where it stopped such luck. 

She told me that the tissue was so damaged that it is literally dying. Not only is that NOT a thorn you see in his finger (only damaged tissue), but he will surely lose his finger soon. I can't even describe to you how this looks in person or the look on his precious little face when he realized that we'd noticed it. He was so ashamed, and I can only imagine how much pain he was in that day as Marci looked at and examined it and tried her best to clean it. He's six or seven years old and will soon have one less finger, not because he lost it in an accident or because it was removed safely by a doctor, but because it literally died from the inside out. 

I talked to his teacher about him, and she said that he used to be such a talkative, happy boy; 
now he is quiet, solemn, and somewhat withdrawn. 

I don't tell you this because I want you to feel sorry for him or to spur a conversation about health care in America or to say that America is somehow superior to anywhere else in the world. 

I do say this to make it real. 
I know for me that before I went to Africa the things I saw on television or read on blogs or talked about with friends who have been seemed only semi-real. I couldn't really understand the hurt that exists around the world; I couldn't see it; it didn't seem real to me....until the boy with the finger. 

Those kids you see on commercials or in pictures are real kids
They like to play ball and giggle and chase each other. 
They love bubbles and are afraid of the dark. 
Unfortunately, not every kid has a medicine cabinet, clean water,  and a pediatrician. 

While I am so proud to be an American, the boy with the finger gave me such a new perspective. 
Never could I imagine that something as simple as a cut on a finger would lead to a lost appendage. Here we would put some antibiotic ointment on it and a band-aid and maybe go to the doctor, but I can't even imagine letting it get this bad. Dare I say, we take so much for granted.

How many times have my kids bumped their elbows or scratched their knees? Libby fell on the playground yesterday, as a matter of fact. But since we have clean water to wash it with and basic medicines, she'll be fine; it'll be forgotten in a week. 

And maybe it's just me, but I think all kids should have  access to clean water and band-aids, and I refuse to be the girl who takes these things for granted for even one more day. 
What if that was my little boy, who simply scratched his finger and will now deal with the consequences for the rest of his life? I'm sorry, but that's just not okay. 

So, when you stop me at Wal-Mart and find that I'd rather talk about Africa and orphans and clean water than just about anything, please know that the boy with the finger is the vision that is stuck in my head. With that in mind, can you blame me for wanting to do more to help? I certainly hope not. For while I sit here snuggling Hollyn and watching Beauty and the Beast for the third time this week (don't judge; it's raining, and the girl loves some 'Be Our Guest'), this boy is suffering. His finger is dying while I throw out three cups of water that my kids didn't finish. And while I am so very thankful for the fact that I can take a shower any time I want to, it's not fair that my kids have clean water, while this little boy and countless others don't. 

God made those children and loves those children just like he made my and loves my children, 
and He directly calls us to help those in need. 
He's serious about that, folks. 

Where you're born shouldn't determine the quality of your life. 
This is not okay today, and it won't be okay tomorrow. 
So what I'm left to think about it, what am I going to do to help children like the boy with the finger? 
And how can I teach my children to appreciate blessing like clean water and readily available medical care?
Because taking these things for granted is simply not acceptable any longer in our house.  


  1. awww man, poor thing... getting to the heart of Christ really does involve getting to the heart of suffering.

    So are yall thinking about adopting yet? Is that even on the table?

  2. I am always disheartened when people are more concerned with american children having toys or school supplies while other children across the world go without clean water, food or vaccines.

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