Monday, August 24, 2015

May You Be

"Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine."
 - Baby Mine

One emergency call and an interview later, and Casa Adalia welcomed a new and very, very pregnant girl, whom I'll call Mary. I met Mary on a Sunday morning and took her to church along with the other two girls and the baby who live in the home. Halfway through the service, Mary was clutching her seat from contractions. We left early so she could rest. The contractions continued on and off throughout the day. At 1:00 am that night, the girls woke me up because Mary's contractions were more frequent and painful. I clocked them at being 4 minutes apart. Director Debbie and her husband Phil arrived and drove her to the hospital.

They spent a very long night with Mary, first at a maternity hospital where she was told she couldn't be admitted because she wasn't high-risk, and then to the small clinic where her doctor told her she couldn't be admitted because she wasn't far enough along. So, back to the house she went.

By mid afternoon, Mary had tears running down her face from the intensity of the contractions. The girls and I helped to distract her by pacing around the room with her, talking to her, and encouraging her to select music to play from youtube. Mary hadn't slept since the night before last, about 36 hours. She would sit down for a moment and immediately her eyes began to close and her head to nod. Just as she was falling asleep, a contraction would rock her body and she would writhe in pain. By 6:00 it was too much to bear: I flagged down a taxi, told the other girls I'd be back when I could, and had the driver take us to the clinic.

It was while pacing back in forth in the back room of a South American clinic with a girl I had met just the day before that I had an out of body experience.
"Of anything I had ever imaged doing and places I imagined being ..."

As we paced, I thought about a story I read recently in the book "Music For Wartime" about a man who escaped Poland during World War II, building a new life in America. Whenever his son would become sick or hurt, he would tell him, "May this be the worst pain you ever feel." The son understood that this was because his father had known the pain of war; of loss, hunger, and fear, and prayed these things away from his son. Also to remind him, "You may think this is bad, but oh my son, there is so much worse ..."

As I paced with Mary, I wanted so much to say, "May this be the worst pain you ever feel." Yet I knew this might not be true. It may, I hope, be the worst physical pain she feels, though she had known abuse and rape, which was how she became pregnant. She was about to become a mom, which meant that for the rest of her life, her heart would be attached to her child, walking around outside her body and feeling the pain of that person who didn't even yet have a name. She would fear for and fight for her child, as good parents do, feeling so many pains with them and for them. So instead, I put my arms around her once more. I rubbed her back and arms and stomach, wishing I could do more, praying for help and relief. She screamed, and once again a nurse came in, frowning and telling her to be calm, telling her that yes, it hurts, just focus on your breathing. I glared at her, wanting to yell, "She's in pain! She's exhausted and angry and afraid. She wants her mom."

In that moment, I realized that I was the closest thing Mary had to family or friend. Her mom was on her way but not quickly enough, Mary's desperate calls passed on by the dispassionate step-father. So we paced. In my head I prayed and cursed and felt out of my depth in a myriad of ways. Yet ...

I also thought about how there is nothing at all except the will of God which separates me from a girl like Mary. If God willed, I could have been born into a poor South American family. Instead of having parents who loved and provided for me, I could have known abuse and lack of education. Why was she the one weeping with pain instead of me? I'm not special or smarter. There are plenty of ways in which I need help in life. In this case, I'm simply the one who gets to give help instead of need it.

Finally, an ambulance was available to take Mary to the hospital. She was told that now she indeed did have a complication, was  high-risk, and couldn't deliver at the clinic. The nurse's first words had actually been,"She needs to get the hospital NOW, but we don't have an ambulance available. Do you know someone with a car?" Debbie was on her way, and my friend Miguel had just called to check in. I was so thankful when he arrived and helped argue with the nurses that they needed to get the ambulance there asap, while I paced with Mary. Debbie arrived just as the ambulance did. That night, Mary gave birth to a tiny baby girl. By now they are both back at Casa Adalia and doing well. Between the night at the clinic and getting her home, there were days of red tape when we weren't allowed to visit Mary because she wasn't family, and deep concern over the baby who was premature and ill. Yet now, mother and baby are both well. For Mary, the pain of those two days of labor are past. The joy and fear and everything else of being a mother, a single mother, are ahead of her. She may stay at Casa Adalia for some time or she may try to be with her mom, who is breaking free of the husband who had controlled her for years. When I go to Casa A, I hold the tiny baby, so light and delicate. I touch her little fingers and silently say, "May your pain be insignificant. May you know love and provision and education. May you have great dreams for your future, and opportunities to see them fulfilled. May you know and give love, little one. May you be."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Small Good Things

"Take the time, think it through
Walk in wise but leave a fool
And it can betray
Sometimes a beggar has more to say"

 - "Sometimes A Beggar" by Caedmon's Call

I walk home from a friend's house and pass by a family picking through the trash. It is 9:00 pm and the trash trucks will start rumbling through around 10:30, as they do every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On those days, people start piling their trash on the sidewalks in front of their homes as soon as it gets dark. No one has outdoor trashcans: they simply place the bags and boxes and any other items on the curb.

There are always people who go through the trash, week after week, looking for anything they can salvage. Some people push flat rolling carts around which they stack with broken-down cardboard boxes. Some haul large sacks over their shoulders; I don't know what all they look for. Anything not too broken, I would think. Anything which might be re-imagined.

It's the sound of children laughing which makes me turn and look. A couple of children are helping some shadowed parental figure haul a huge, flattened box - ladened with other items - down the street. A third child pushes a stroller along beside them, pulling it to a hard stop when they come to a new pile of trash. It's possible the family is not homeless, but poor enough that this is what they do: they or their parents go out and go through the trash as a source of income. The children giggle again, and I think that maybe, this is exciting for them. They are out at night when the streets are quiet, when it's like a different place. They are assigned tasks; push the stroller, look for cardboard, bring home all you can of worth. Children can be delighted with the simplest things, like riding an elevator or having a dog push his nose into their palms. I am torn between feeling sorry for them and wanting to taste their joy over being out at night and part of their parent's world. What I do know is that I hope for them ... all good things. I hope for a future which rises them above poverty, with each day holding more than the struggle to merely exist. I hope for education and purpose and so much more. Yet for tonight, I hope they see themselves as being on a treasure hunt, an adventure. I hope they continue to laugh and that they find many useful things. I hope they take delight in every small good thing they can, collecting them in their hearts like fireflies in jars.

Friday, August 7, 2015


By day
Beneath these clouds
this sky
I can be fooled into thinking this world
this life
Is all there is
All that matters

At night
I see the heavens
the stars
The melifluous granduer of the milky way
the planets
I am reminded
How small I am

I am reminded
There is so much more

"If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world."
 - C.S. Lewis