There were over a thousand people in that line yesterday. Our hospital manager, who spent the entire day making his way up and down the line, handing out cups of water, showed me the final figure that he had scrawled on his hand. 1,150. And we sent them all away. All except for the ones whose names we put on waiting lists, the ones whose hopes will almost surely be dashed even harder when they realize that the ship has sailed and they never got the call to come.
My alarm rang at seven this morning, plenty of time for me to grab breakfast and make my way to community meeting with the rest of the ship. But as I swam into consciousness, before I even sat up, their faces were before me, their eyes silent and reproachful. I saw the old man whose hernia bulged through the cloth of his pants who put his hand on my arm and pleaded with me. Je souffre, he told me. I suffer. I saw the little boy with pale skin, hanging limply on his mama's back. He had a problem when he was born, she told me through my translator, and he didn't have enough oxygen. He doesn't walk. He should walk. I want him to walk. I saw the young girl, her back twisted by the most severe scoliosis I have ever seen, bent forward and to the side, leaning heavily on her stick as she stood for hours in the line with the rest of them, uncomplaining in the heat. I saw the old woman, her legs swollen and infected by tropical ulcers who took every step in pain. She refused to leave the line even after Abdel and I had explained that we didn't have the right doctor to help her condition. That she would need to go home. Her voice was soft, and the language she spoke made it sound like she was literally trying to swallow her disappointment as she begged us to reconsider, refusing to understand the truth.
I saw them all and a thousand more, and I couldn't face their pain. So I turned my alarm off and went back to sleep. I, at least, have that luxury, and it's hard not to resent myself for it. To hate the vast divide between rich and poor. To rage and rail against that impossible fact that I'm once again so squarely faced with; that where you were born is so often exactly what decides how you die.
I know it's good to be faced with these realities, to be forced to confront, even if it’s just 1,150 at a time, the billions of people in the world who scrape together their livings from hopes and prayers. I know it’s right to wrestle with the sadness and the outrage that I feel when I realize that I’m not going to be able to fix it all, that so many will die disappointed and unloved. But in the early morning hours, when their faces scream a silent pain, I want to put my head under my covers and hide from it all. I can’t hide from His voice though, and it breaks through my fears and my walls and my stubborn resolve to shut myself away.
Have you forgotten what I’ve called you to? Pour out your soul for the hungry. Invite the homeless into your house and clothe those who go without. You think this is too hard? If you but try, your light will rise like the sun, your healing will soon be evident; the very God of Glory will secure your path. You’ll pray, and I will answer you. You will call out for help and My voice will be in your ear before your tongue has fallen silent. I’m here. I have always been here. And I will never leave your side.So I guess it’s going to be okay.