01 October 2011

The Rest of the Story

When I was in high school I had a book by Paul Harvey called The Rest of the Story in which he recounted details of true stories.  Preceding the revelation of the particular the historical event or famous person about whom he was speaking, was always the phrase 'Now, the rest of the story.'

Last week, one of my burn patients died.  She was six years old.  Cause of death: malaria. It was tragic and unexpected and difficult to accept.  She had come to us to have a contracture release so that she could walk again.  But she came down with a resistant strain of malaria that eventually made its way to her brain.

And now, the rest of the story.

Last night a couple that works in a city east of here was passing through.  We had met briefly once or twice before, but it was Little N.'s hospitalization that brought us together.  They were her connection and means to our hospital.  So, as they were stopping on the compound to stay the night, I invited them for dinner.

After Little N.'s death, E. and I spoke on the phone.  She told me that the family was marveled at how happy Little N. was being in Galmi.  And how thankful they were for the care they received here.

But last night, E. filled in a few more details.

  • Little N. lived in a very remote village.  There are even members of the clan that have never gone beyond its neighboring villages.  For her family, Galmi was a big city.
  • Little N. was the oldest child of three daughters.  In village cultural traditions here, there is a strong fear that evil spirits will take away whatever a family loves the most.  So the oldest children are often treated poorly, in an attempt to fool the spirits into thinking that child is not loved.  For an oldest son, a family is careful not to be too harsh, but as for a little girl, whose worth is minimal to begin with, life as a child can be full of additional suffering.  Little N. was no exception.
  • Little N.'s family is Buzu . . . the lowest social class of the Tuareg people.  In fact, the Buzu were slaves to the Tuaregs.  And to this day, they are considered to be a worthless class.  The bottom of society.  They are used to being outcast and rejected by others.  They are not used to kindness and acceptance.
E. explained these things to help me understand how a grieving father, who just lost his little girl, could take my hand and express gratitude from the depths of his being for the care she received here.  She helped me understand that during those few short weeks, Little N. was showered with the acceptance and kindness that her family has always been denied.  She had left her village as the world's outcast, and came to Galmi where she was embraced by children who elsewhere, by social ranking, would never have accepted her.  

E. shared the family's reaction to my first encounters with Little N:
'And then, [D√©borah] just picked her up and carried her!  A white woman!  She just bent over and picked her up!'  
To me it was nothing.  She was a sad, but precious little girl who couldn't walk.  Of course I would pick her up!  But for her family, this simple, thoughtless, act spoke louder than any words I could have said.

You know, as I continue to grieve the loss of Little N.'s life, I can't help but imagine that 2,011 years ago there was a whole crowd of parents who were running back to tell anyone who would listen:
'And then, He just picked my little girl up!  Him!  A prophet, teacher and miracle worker. . . and He just picked her up!'  

You remember that story, in Matthew 19, when the Disciples tried to send a bunch of kiddos away because they felt Jesus had more important people on whom to spend His time.  What a good reminder that 'Compassionate Care' isn't handing out crutches or showing a patient exercises.  Instead, it is speaking with kindness to the grumpy old men, carrying dirt-covered children, and generously giving away smiles to those physically and emotionally suffering.  

Come to think of it, one doesn't have to be in Niger to do that.


Barb said...

BEAUTIFUL, just beautiful, Deb.  Can I share some with others?  I had never heard the part about evil spirits and the oldest child, and treating that child poorly to fool the spirits.  What a SAD, SAD perspective!  It is similar (but worse) than hearing that children after the age of two have emotional needs ignored so that they learn to be tough to survive in this tough culture.  What a backward way of thinking.  :(

Tim and Al said...

Wow. Deb. I am amazed at what you are doing and the story He is telling through and in your life. What a rare person you are. What a unique perspective you will have on life with your Lord. 
We are proud of you. Tim, Allison and Silas

Amanda Hunt said...

You brought a tear to my eye, thank you for sharing that story. I expect the Lord will use little N's story and your involvement with her in a powerful way.

Bobnrobn said...

D....I can hardly withstand the feelings of emotion from where I sit staring at your words; how will I cope when I am actually there to feel and touch.....

Kari said...

Oh wow - I don't know if I can put my response into words...but what a touching, beautiful, sad story.

Deb. said...

I know how you feel, Kari. When I re-read this post I think 'That sounds so disconnected'. The whole situation has been so deep, overwhelming, and emotionally encompassing, that I think my words only begin to express what is really inside.

Bethany Reamer said...

thank you... Jesus is just so kind, so DIFFERENT.  your post makes me just want to be more like Him.   amazing, the perspective of Him you are getting there in Galmi.  thank you for sharing this!

Kathryn said...

"Generously giving away smiles" has struck a deep cord with me - being greatly challenged this week by 1 Tim 6:17-18, that as a rich Christian, I am to be generous and ready to share. Thanks Deb for helping me see how I can be generous with my smiles!

Deb. said...

Yes He is!!! And yeah, the perspective from over here is definitely from over here. Happy to be sharing what I'm learning.

Deb. said...

It's nice to have something to give away that won't run out!!