Some things feel quite weird, but you know they’re good. I’ve experienced quite a bit of that feeling recently. I work on a hospital ship, but the extent of my medical expertise includes putting band-aids on my students and giving them my most sage teacher advice for the two things that heal any ailment:
1. “Why don’t you you get a wet paper towel to put on it for a bit.”
2. “How about you go take a big sip of water!”
I want to spend time down with the patients in the wards, but it’s quite an uncomfortable place for me because I can’t help them physically in any way and I always feel that I’m in the way. However, if I don’t intentionally go spend time in the wards, I will never even see the patients who are the very reason we are all here. Sooooo, that’s how I ended up for the past two Fridays down in the wards where I don’t feel at all that I belong… and it was good! I’d like to say that I jumped in and tried to talk to others in French and Fon and held lots of littles with arms wrapped stiff and made everyone feel the love of God…it was a bit more like trying to get out of the way of nurses with medicine, watching babies who I wish I could hold, and awkwardly smiling at patients with whom I really have no other way of communicating what with my tiny amount of French and miniscule amount of Fon. But two Fridays ago I did get to play Uno with a group of patients, and hold one little guy with wrapped hands before he decided he liked the nurses better, and yesterday I brought dot paints down for the patients to play with and held the hand of one of the little girls who couldn’t get out of her bed to play with the dot paints.
In the same way I want to intentionally make spending time with patients a normal activity in my kindergarten class. This past week was the first week that we went out to deck 7 in the afternoon to play with patients. We talked beforehand about what they might see and how to treat the patients with care and the girls immediately expressed fear about going out. I asked what they were scared of and they said, “well, the bandages and stuff!” We decided to pray that God would help us to have courage and be kind and I wish everyone could have heard my littles pray! One of them prayed with such fervor and sincerity, “Dear God, help the patients to put on Your healing and help us not to be scared because they are just normal people with nasty diseases! They are just normal people!!!” When we did go out, the girls were apprehensive, but quite excited! They told me that they thought they might like to stay close to me and I told them that that was ok. In accordance with what I have experienced down in the wards, I’d like to say that it was glamorous and amazing and that my littles became fast friends with the little patients and they knew God’s love because we came out to play with them…however it was more of that awkward goodness that I mentioned before. We brought out a princess memory game and spent quite a bit of time trying to get the one patient who wanted to play with us to not flip over all the memory cards at once and attempting not to get in the way of the National Geographic team that was filming out there. It’s was more jostling and overwhelming than glamourous and compassionate, but it was a start.
So, my endeavor to connect with the patients onboard, and have my littles do the same, has begun. It hasn’t been easy or what I imagined and I don’t always want to go, but it’s something that is important to me and more importantly, it’s important to God I believe. So I’ll keep on in the endeavor and pray that as I continue, the awkward goodness will become less and less awkward, and more and more goodness.