Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I know it's not unusual to hear kids crying in a dental office but yesterday it was me. And they were tears of joy. 

Nestled amongst the mango trees lies the Kikindia Health Center for Rising Stars, and nestled within the health center is the new dental clinic.

I allowed myself just a minute to sit and reflect on the journey to this point - the sacrifice and vision of so many, I thought of the children who would soon walk through this door, and then I swallowed the lump in my throat and began my work. 

The plan for this week was to set up the clinic and see each of the children for cleanings and exams so we could schedule their time with Aaron next week most effectively. This was a lofty goal but because the resident volunteer coordinator here happens to also be a dental assistant, we knew it was possible.

Then we hit a roadblock. Major equipment malfunction.

Long story short, Aaron is bringing most of the new equipment with him. I brought most of the supplies with me. This was a fine plan because we knew had the old equipment here and thought it would suffice.

I spent my day downloading owners manuals, replacing fuses and hoses, trading out parts from machine to machine, and praying for help. In the afternoon the head of maintenance came to the rescue. He also pulled and pushed and fiddled. Then pulled and pushed and fiddled some more. 

We troubleshot repeatedly and finally he stood there with a broken hose end in one hand, looking at me with exasperation so I said, "I just don't know what else to do."

He said, matter of factly, "We pray to God!" And he looked up to the ceiling and smiled. 

I took a quick break to come back to the volunteer house and saw that my laundry which had been on the drying line earlier was strewn about on the ground. As I was picking it up I noticed this ladder propped against the wall. 

And I thought to myself, "Why can't everything be this simple?"

The thing I love most about these children is their complete immersion in simplicity. Everything for them is pared down to the most basic elements and in that, they radiate such joy. Yet helping them requires a great deal of complexity. They see American volunteers as these friends and playmates and have no idea what it took to get here. 

Of course, because I'm in India I had to think deeply about this. As I gathered my clean, yet dirty again laundry from off the dirt, I stared at that ladder. Just look at those shattered pieces of wood held together with rusty nails. Some places the nails weakened sufficiently enough that rope was needed to secure the rung. And in some places, the rung had long ago given out, not strong enough to save. 

So whose life, really, is more complex? We are consumed with machines and technology and lives that move faster than we can manage. These kids may get by with 2 outfits, a mat for sleeping, and nature as their only play toy, but they are consumed with disease and loss and insecurity. They live here, away from parents they love, because this is their only hope for a better life. Can we imagine having to grow up away from our family simply because they were sick?

I guess that's just the way life is. It is both simple and complex and nobody is immune to either part. The key is to radiate simple joy through the complex as these children teach us to do. 

Today's success made up for yesterday's challenges. We were able to get one machine to limp along well enough to give about 60 children a bright, shining smile. I was so happy to see that many of the kids remembered me, although Aaron seems to be the big topic of conversation. Who could forget that handsome, funny dentist with "rats" in his biceps? One girl even asked me if Aaron still had his 6 pack! She giggled and whispered to me, "I poked his stomach so I know he has one." 

Jaxon and Ethan spent the day pulling kids out of class for their dental appointments and keeping them entertained in our outdoor "waiting room". I was so proud of how well they handled their responsibilities and how great they were with the kids.

Since this is a day to celebrate success, we won't talk about how I inadvertently got my entire stock of underwear locked in the washer for 3 hours, or how my iPad hates me when I try to blog, or how the headrest on the only working patient chair broke when a boy leaned back on it, or about the frog my little friend Shalini found hopping around the dental clinic. Nope. This is a day to celebrate success. I hope the same goes for you!

Oh how I've missed my friends at Rising Star! 

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible feat. The positive impact your clinic has on their community on their self confidence is profound. Keep rocking strong!