When I was a kid, I heard an illustration about a little boy standing on the beach during low tide. The shore was glazed in stray starfish who had been washed up by the tide, and a little boy was throwing them back in the ocean, one by one. A grown-up approached him and mocked his efforts, questioning what sort of difference he could make with such a massive shore-line and only two little hands. The boy continued his efforts without acknowledging the man. “It made a difference to that one,” and he tossed a starfish back in the salty waters. “And that one,” he launched another. “And that one. And that one. And that one . . . .”
I woke up this morning with that grown-up's voice echoing through my mind. And I confess, it is much easier to believe the enemy’s lie that ‘one drop in the ocean doesn’t matter’ than it is to trust in the faithfulness of the One who called.
My six-year-old friend, N. died last night. Her last twenty-four hours of life were spent suffering, fighting to not succumb to the grip of death. She came for a surgery on her leg that would allow her to walk again, but then contracted malaria.
We often tell ourselves that death is simply part of life, part of the process. But if it were really so natural, why would she have put up such a fight? Maybe this is just my grief talking.
You know, here at Galmi, we make a big difference every day. Patients come from all over the country to be treated in our hospital. I even have a patient right now arrived from southern Nigeria because they had gone to several local hospital, and were turned away by ‘there’s nothing we can do’, until one day someone said, ‘you should try Galmi Hospital in Niger.’ I was once asked to work with a spinal cord injured patient--he had a bullet lodged in his spine--as he had come here because people say ‘miracles happen at Galmi’.
But, to be honest with you, most of the time the severity of the loss experienced out weighs and overshadows the ‘difference’ made. I want to climb up our water tower and scream out over Galmi, ‘LITTLE N. CAME HERE TO BE ABLE TO WALK AGAIN, NOT TO DIE!!!!!’
But as my heart flails about at the injustice of it, there’s a little whisper reminding me that, still, coming to my office everyday is Little H. and Little Y. who both have a long road and a lot of hard work if they are going to walk again . . . and H-tu who perseveres without a single complaint so that she will be able to lift her arm . . . and N. who is now disfigured from massive burns, but comes to be with the other kids regardless of her appearance. I can’t give up on them simple because it feels like the gerbil ball is going nowhere, only crashing into the wall.
I was told last night, by a friend of her family, that Little N. was so incredibly happy here during her hospital stay. That we had made a difference for a little girl who arrived here very sad and very defeated. Over the month I worked with her, I saw her transform into a child that smiled and laughed and loved to be tickled and was a little speed racer with her walker. For the first time in about a year, she was able to participate in the community around her and play with other children.
So this morning, as a grieving family boards a bus, heading four hours home, I pray that they would know Comfort and true Peace. That the Words of Truth they heard during this month's stay at our hospital would not come back void. That the Love and Grace they experienced would change their hearts. And that the Joy my little friend found here was not from us, but from a child's faith in the Man of Sorrows who came and died so that we might live.