I spent the past seven days being sick. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a sickness that changed your perspective, but this one changed mine. It came out of nowhere with total body weakness and a 104+ fever. I thought it was malaria but couldn’t get to the clinic so I popped some Artequin and went to bed.
Jen called a missionary doctor friend when I started hallucinating. She checked me out (so I’m told) and her initial thought was that I had a bacterial infection. I only remember bits and pieces of that night, but I know it was miserable. It turned out I didn’t have malaria (still not sure what it was) so the treatment was antibiotics, water and rest. The days that followed were miserable between the headaches, neck aches, fevers, stomach problems and body aches. As I was laying in bed on the third day, I realized something pretty profound, at least for me. Ready for it?
I realized I was miserable. I know. Deep, right?
There I was with every comfort. I had a laptop, and all the movies I cared to watch. I was in a comfortable bed with lots of blankets and pillows. I had a nice fan to cool me off and wet washcloths I could put on my face. I had all the medications I could need. I had a clean, comfortable, private bathroom with nice cold water and a toilet that I could sit on comfortably instead of squatting as is the norm here. I had clean, cold drinking water and even some Mio and AP thanks to some good friends. I had access to massive quantities of chicken soup. I had people to care for me.
But despite all this, I still felt really really bad. Despite all the comforts, I felt like death and I was miserable.
That’s when I started realizing stuff. When I get sick, or something bad happens, there’s really only two options. I can turn in, or I can look out. (Or some combination of the two). When I turned in, I was miserable. After all, I felt miserable. Everything hurt and I was sicker than I had ever been in my adult life. But, when I tried to get outside my little bubble, I realized that I had a lot to be thankful for. At first, I ignored the neck ache long enough to realize I appreciated the movies I had to keep me occupied. One tiny step. Then, I realized that if it weren’t for the meds and the water and the food, I’d be even worse off. Then I realized that without people caring for me, I would have likely croaked. Then, I realized that there were people likely within a stone’s throw that would be eternally grateful for even one thing from my list of comforts. And just like that, with one little step, I was outside the bubble, looking out, my mind reeling with ideas about ways I could help people that were in desperate need, with no comfort and no hope.
All this happened in my brain while I lay in bed.
As I regained my strength, my daily routine started beckoning. There were things to do. We had our first team staying with us downstairs (the bed and breakfast). I could hear hammering from the workshop and realized that the leather program likely needed some attention. The Computer Training Center likely needed attention.
And then, like a whisper came a spirit of regret and guilt. What about the people in need, sick in bed? What about those profound revelations? Was is supposed to change course again? Was i supposed to reinvent myself yet again, not as penance or as a way to run away (which I’ve done more than once) but shift gears into something wholly different?
The answer came slowly.
As I descended the stairs, I found the team preparing for the day. I talked to them about the work they had planned. They were bringing medical supplies, treatment and comfort to children through local baby homes. One of the members, an Army-trained nurse cared for an HIV+ baby that was deathly sick. He hydrated the baby, brought his fever down and fed him. The next morning the baby had made drastic improvements.
I wandered out to the leather workshop and found two members of the team toiling away. The village teams had sent in paper that they had stained. The leather project was working. People had jobs, income, skills, a way forward.
I wandered back to the house to check on the day’s work. A single MacBook waited for repair. It belonged to a young lady that had completely sold out to move to Uganda to Serve Children. Her laptop was the link to her supporters and donors. Her hard drive had crashed, but thanks to one of our volunteers donation of a hard drive, I was able to get her back up and running.
And just like that, I understood. When we first left for Uganda, we had no clue what we were supposed to do here. Over time, though we listened and we learned. We found a niche in computer support, then computer training, then through community service and support through the restaurant and BnB. Through lots of missteps, heartaches, disappointments and trials we landed in this spot which is clearly defined as “support”.
The work that’s in front of me is important, and for a long time I guess I started to doubt that. I wanted to be center stage.. again. But I’ve spent a lot of time there, and right now I’m supposed to be backstage. I need to work harder and smarter at this role, but I’m sure this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.
It’s just curious that I had to be thrown off the stage to realize it.