When my brother was around 6 years old, he joined the rest of the family on an amusement park ride called the Zambezi Zinger. It turned out to be a memorable occasion that we talk about 30 years later. He screamed at the top of his lungs the entire time “THIS RIDE HURTS MY BODY! THIS RIDE HURTS MY BODY!” as my equally frightened mother in the car in front of him tried to comfort him as my dad tried to comfort her.
An interesting fact: the Zambezi Zinger, like me, now resides in a foreign country. Some 6 year old now screams “ESTE VIAJE ME DUELE EL CUERPO! ESTE VIAJE ME DUELE EL CUERPO!” on La Broca in the Parque Nacional Del Café (Coffee National Park) in Columbia, South America instead of at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri.
I bring this memory to the surface because similar to what this ride did to my brother, this life is doing to me...but it’s not my outer body that hurts, it my inner body; more specifically, my heart. The hurt is not constant; it comes and goes sometimes building up like the spiral climb of the Zinger and then plunging down the rails when you reach the top. Like the ride, it rips through the body like the twists and turns of the Zinger and then throws you into darkness like the infamous tunnel of the coaster. But as with all turmoil, it eventually slows down and comes to a stop. Like the thrill at the end of the ride; coming off a difficult situation leaves me with a sense of new awareness.
Ironically (or not) my last post was pure sarcasm about Kate and playing favorites. As the universe would have it, Little Wey got his day the following evening. At dinner the volunteers were just finishing up when some of the kids came rushing into the eating area with a deeply sobbing Wey. One look at his bloody hand and Kate jumped up. Knowing my limited health care knowledge, I resisted the urge to go to him and instead sat back and let her and Wayne take a look at it undisturbed. Wayne in his ever-so-calm way acknowledged that yes, it probably needed stitches and motioned for him to sit down for a minute so he and Kate could finish up. After being at Wat Opot and around Wayne for a total of 10 months, I do not question his judgment although all I wanted to do was run over to Wey and hold him. It didn’t help that Srey Lak told me that he had hurt himself near the volunteer dorm and went running to my door calling for me to help him; before they lead him away to the kitchen area.
Well, I finished eating and then went to the clinic to see how it was going. I tentatively stepped in and asked if I could do anything. Kate and Wayne had the surgical side under control so all I could do was hold his other hand and try to keep his head facing me while they worked away. It was everything I could do to not cry along with him. He just kept saying over and over that he wanted a bong (bandaid) but of course it needed more.
In Cambodia (as in other countries) anesthesia is not used on stitches. Basically you just endure a little (or a lot) more pain while you get stitched cold turkey. I’ve watched Caroline, Wayne and Kate all stitch up a head here or an arm or leg there feeling more fascination than anything else….this all changed when Kate stuck the suture needle into Wey’s skin. He was looking at me while we discussed how big the bong on his finger would be (BONG TOM) and suddenly he had this look of terror as he screamed “oh we oh we oh we” over and over begging me for a bong. I almost got sick! After watching Kate tie up the first stitch and hear Wayne tell him only one more, I knew that once again I had changed inside. I was not the same person who walked into the clinic minutes ago.
There are big life-changing events and there are small life-changing events. It doesn’t matter the size or devastation of the event that can change someone and make their path in life a little bit different. This event was minute in size and involved just a 5 year old careless boy, but it had the capacity to make me see the world a bit different. To change how I look at the human body and what pain (as well as joy) it can bring. I know I am tested all the time to see what I can emotionally handle. The death of my father put me towering over the edge of heartache; the death of my grandmother allowed me to see it in a whole new way. Watching a needle go into the skin of a child I love dearly (as small a gesture it was) made me ache inside wishing I could endure it instead of him. The next time it will be easier; the next time I will be that much more prepared.
In Peace Studies, I learned about disaster relief; about healing pain and suffering. I have read about man-made and natural disasters and how to respond with aid. In theory anyone can do anything and everything. In theory I can do it all. I no longer live in theory; nor do I assume I can handle anything…I can only hope I can.
The one thing I can be sure of, though, is that I am unsure about everything. That I can only keep moving forward, living in the here and now, in a compassionate kind way and let the universe guide me as I lovingly conscientiously continue to grow.
Wey endured and because he got his wish for a BIG bandage, he was happy with the outcome and the next day he was babied in the play room by the other kids and enjoyed his day in the sun.