Editor’s Note: As part of our “Comfort and Joy” Advent/Christmas blog series, missioner Brandon Newland reflects on his interactions with two women from his infirmary visits in Jamaica who have left lasting impressions on him.
The end of the year is a wonderful time to reflect on the many blessings given and received throughout the year. This year, more than any other, has been very unique and filled with many events that would otherwise be strange if they took place anywhere else. Finding compassion and empathy in this area is not always easy, but I will reflect on two women in the infirmary who have left a lasting impression on me.
Lesma is what you might call a “difficult” person. She comes across as coarse and overly persistent. She lives in the infirmary and has many medical issues. When I pull up in my car, before I am even able to get out, she calls me over to her and asks for the long list of things that she requested. I usually oblige her one or two things on her list, but am rarely able to acquire all of it.
Her major request is for adult pull-up diapers or pampers, which are very costly so I don’t always get them. Typically, if I don’t give her the pampers she shoots me a mean look, turns her head, and gives me the silent treatment.
Sometimes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in people’s approaches to others and not understand the context of why they are the way they are. One week I skipped my trip to the infirmary since I was on a retreat. When I returned, it had been 3 weeks since Lesma’s last pampers delivery. When I gave them to her, for the first time, a smile came across her face and tears came to her eyes.
“Thank the Lord!” she proclaimed again and again.
I was shocked to say the least. This couldn’t be Lesma. I learned later that the pampers are basically the only thing that gives her dignity. If she doesn’t have the pull-up kind, she cannot manage putting the diaper on herself. She needs assistance from the nurses and it embarrasses her immensely, considering she still has all her faculties. Despite Lesma’s rough exterior, all she ever wanted was some level of pride and dignity.
At the opposite end of the infirmary and the other end of the spectrum sits Victoria. She is quiet, gentle, and looks at people with tender, soft eyes. She is constantly sick and has difficulty speaking. They rarely have the proper medicine for her and don’t always seem to make much of an effort to find some. Just about every time I visit Victoria, she breaks into tears over a bar of soap or rubbing alcohol (common requests that most cannot afford.)
One time I brought her sore throat and cough medicine. Instantly, tears rolled from her eyes and her soft scratchy voice forced out an, ”Alleluia, brother. OH MY LORD, thank you thank you thank you.” She stopped for a minute, looked at me, and asked, “Do you think it will work?” I replied, “It should, I hope.” She smiled and thanked me again.
It amazes me at times how such small gestures can make such a large impact in someone’s life. Lesma and Victoria are just two examples of the forgotten and marginalized all around the world that simply desire and rightfully deserve attention. It helps me grow every day I am with them, to see how much happiness can be received simply by showing up and being there for someone.
Question for reflection: Like Brandon said, it’s easy to not understand the context of why people are the way they are. When you interact with others, how can you be more intentional about remembering that, like you, everyone has their own unique story which has formed them into who they are?
Featured image: adaptation of photo by Pixabay user Unsplash – labeled for reuse