Trying to do cognitive retraining with a 40-ish year old man who suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) two weeks ago can be challenging . . . attempting to do it in Hausa without wasting anyone's time takes a lot of creativity.
Since I'm limited by language and he's limited by severe immediate recall deficits, we ended up limping along together and some how he made progress. I'd say it's because of my education; my patient and his friends, however, wouldn't agree.
I had asked the question about his children in order to have some familiar names to work with as we attempt to improve his executive functions. I confess, I was expecting four or five, six at the most.
'EIGHTEEN?' I repeated in shock.
He told me about his three wives and how many kids he had with each one. He had married his first wife when he was "very young", and she was even younger. The third wife already has six babies.
After expressing my shock, I told him that I have one brother--that's it.
The friend with him asked if my parents had died when I was young . . . because that would be the only reason he could rationalize why any family would have only two children.
As we sat in our moment of mutual culture-shock, they asked how many kids I had.
When I told them I had none, my patient advised that I divorce my husband and marry a Nigerien man, who would give me babies. I told him it wasn't my husband's fault . . . considering I don't have one.
Their culture-shock shot to DefCon2. 'WHY NOT!?!' they gasped, seeing as I am clearly well into my child-bearing years. I gave my standard-in-Niger response, waiting on God's time . . . and on a whim I threw in 'Besides, I work a lot.'
'Well,' my patient's friend sighed, 'That is why we don't educate women.'
For a split second I thought maybe what I heard was due to the language barrier.
I conferred with B. Sure enough, that's what he said.
That is why we don't educate women.
A statement like that conjures up a wealth of emotions . . . let's give it a try. I'll repeat it again, and you tell me what comes to mind:
THAT IS WHY WE DON'T EDUCATE WOMEN.
For me it was disbelief, horror, anger, pity, sorrow, injustice, and outrage. . . all rolled into one. I wanted to go on a tirade and tell this man everything that is wrong about his point-of-view, but the HolySpirit reminded me that there is no grace in a response like that, and I was convicted it was best to keep my mouth shut while continuing to treat his friend.
Over the next week, as my patient came for therapy twice a day, I couldn't help but replay the conversation in my head. As I did, I realized that what got to me wasn't his actual statement . . . it was how nonchalantly he had made it. He had shrugged me off as a woman with no value . . . I was a waste, and so was every educated woman on the planet.
The more I pondered the wholeness of his statement and the tone in which is was made, the more sad the scenario became. He wasn't being aggressive . . . there was no sound of political agenda . . . he wasn't even denying treatment-by-a-woman for his friend.
He had effortlessly shrugged his worldview out loud: you are the case-in-point why we don't educate women.
For him, it was simple: education leads to work . . . and work interferes with a woman's marriage and her role as a mother. And that interference upsets the balance and natural order of life.
This man did not believe that empowering women would benefit his community . . . but rather that educating women would undermine his society.
I confess, allowing this man to sit in our gym day after day gnawed at my core; internally, I was split in two. My sub-dermal feminist roared against what felt like gender-injustice while the gentle Spirit reminded me of the opportunity to love my enemies.
And as I wrestle through learning to love a culture that continues to place a woman's value on the productivity of her womb, I rest in the reality that my worth is found in the One who treasures and cherishes women . . . the One who scribbled in the sand instead of casting stones at the adulteress . . . who was anointed by a hooker's perfume instead of condemning her . . . and who touched the outcast bleeding woman instead of rebuking and shunning her.