Sometimes what we can give is our presence

Bonswa, from Haiti! (That’s the French Creole spelling, by the way!)

Yesterday we began our medical/dental mission work in La Pretre, a mountain village two hours from where we are staying in Les Cayes. The moment the trucks stopped, we were surrounded by locals who wanted to say hello, touch our “blonde/blanc” skin, get relief from their ailments. The last medical team visited in August, 2016; we literally started working the moment we climbed out of the truck.

The dental team worked in a small classroom all day, mainly extracting teeth too far gone to save. I worked in the pharmacy, helping to dispense meds prescribed by the docs. We worked in tandem in a large classroom of the school, so I witnessed much of the medical team’s work. Our patients included toddlers with open sores from bacterial infections on their skin; elderly women who came in their Sunday dresses and good shoes to see the docs for their blood pressure (mind you, this is a rural area with only stone and dirt roads); mothers who sat for hours in sweltering heat with coughing babies on their laps. All received thorough examination and treatment.

And then there was one elderly man, helped into the clinic by his two daughters, barely able to walk. Most of the clinic’s visitors sat on a school bench for their exams; he lay across it. After long and thorough deliberation, the medical staff concluded he has pancreatic cancer, and not much longer to live. Our priest sat with him while one of the doctors gently explained to the man, through an equally tender Haitian interpreter, that he has a terminal illness.

So much that could be done for so many folks today. Nothing that could be done for one. Except share kindness and compassion and presence to a dying man and his family.

Tammy Garrison
St. Mary Magdalene, Kansas City, Missouri

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