It’s in the details

Sitting in a small, dark and crowded “home” the size of my own bedroom but made to fit about six bodies instead of one, I wasn’t surprised to see another foot wound on one of the many boys that plays in the crowd of siblings, cousins, and friends near Nadia’s home. As it sprinkled outside and we drank tea (that tasted like anything BUT what I was expecting) in Bo’s home, Rodney’s dirt caked wound was pointed out to me. I called him over (he was outside) and after examining, I asked if he had sandals. After he nodded, I told him that once the rain stopped I would take him to my house and clean the details of dirt from the cut if he would clean the mud from his soles and wear sandals to keep his feet clean on the walk over. I told him that this was important because an infection would be a lot worse than the bloody foot he’d gotten earlier in the day.

After another half hour of visiting, I stood up as the girls started to do household chores and Nadia went to her house to bathe herself and Westhalineda for the night. Nadia called “Rodney!” for me and the boy showed up, wearing his oversized orange tank top (and that’s it), ready to go. I looked down to check if he had followed my instructions and he stood there with a pair of sandals nearly double his size and freshly washed feet. Yes, he had followed my instructions. And his “yes” to owning sandals really meant that his brother owned a pair that he was allowed to borrow since Stephanie said he had to wear sandals. I hid any sign of “feeling sorry” about it to hold Rodney’s dignity up and thanked him for washing his feet and getting ‘his’ sandals.

We walked to my house – Bo coming with us because she asked (the family loves the chance to go somewhere with me, it’s something new to do) and because I agreed I may need her help to hold him down. I did this exact type of medical help about two weeks ago, ironically on Rodney’s cousin who lives in Cabaret (Bercy to Cabaret is Ohio’s Reynoldsburg to Columbus). TiKris had accompanied me that day and had quite the job of holding her cousin down as he jerked, screamed, and probably decided that he didn’t like me anymore. An extra pair of hands can never hurt.

What was the medical help, exactly? A deep cut in the foot from stepping on a broken Coke bottle. Here, sodas are in glass bottles. Fun to teams, cheap to refill, awful for barefoot little boys. Last time I had to clean multiple cuts and do butterfly stitches/medical glue – luckily, Rodney’s was not as bad. But as for an active boy about 8 years old (but the size of six years), the wound was much dirtier. My job was to use alcohol wipes, q-tips, and hydrogen peroxide to clean this foot out. (See: scrape caked dirt out.) (Also see: reasons why I would never want to be in the medical field, I can’t handle this) Last time, Mickens took over for me because I couldn’t handle the combination of dealing with the wound and inflicting more pain. This time, it was all Bo and I.

So these cuts – the glass is thick, and it also goes deep. So this isn’t a sliver. This is a chunk of skin, CUT. Have you ever had it seen a wound where it looks like a full centimeter of flesh was cut through, that’s the size of the flap of broken skin? That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Rodney was SO brave, a combination of both his temperament and feet that were just THAT calloused. I was almost finished with the wound as I looked over his foot in the dying light as the sun went down. “Oh, no.”. He looked up at my English phrase with a questioning look and I warned him in Creole that I wasn’t done, as I had now spotted at least three more deep flesh wounds, missing chunks of skin like the one I was dealing with. No blood, but had to have hurt. I went to start in them and he gently told me “you don’t have to do those”. Rodney, of course I will! “No, those are old”.

And I sat back. This tiny foot, a little over half the size of my own, was covered in deep gashes from the past. CHUNKS of missing skin, not cuts but CHUNKS. This kid is a trooper.

I got neosporin, a bandage, and some socks from my room to keep his foot clean and sent him on his way after he and Bo both got a glass of clean water. Bo was probably thinking I was a drama queen as I’d warned her about holding Rodney down, when all he’d ended up doing was wincing at the hydrogen peroxide.

I went to clean up the porch, my own “minute clinic”, and reflect on all the roles I play in a day. Nurse, check.

Skip to just before the sun was about to set the next day – I’m sitting on our guest house roof watching neighborhood boys practice soccer moves when I see that oversized orange shirt walking past the tree in front of the Sant Mouvman.

“Rodney! How’s the foot?”

“Good!” (I guessed was what he said, he was too far for his little voice to carry)

He said something else and seeing that I couldn’t understand, came to stand under my dangling legs. I hopped up and skipped down the steps to meet him at the gate. He was barefoot again and had some small cut on his previously wound-free foot, caked in dirt. I’m careful about over-helping (people will quickly start coming to the gate for an alcohol wipe or bandaid for everything you can imagine), but as he stood in that same oversized shirt I decided to bring him in and use the chance to re-clean yesterday’s cut as well.

He was quiet again, and as I started to use alcohol prep wipes on the bottle cut he started to giggle. Turning to the friend he’d come in with, he kept cracking up – “What?!” I asked, wondering if there was a joke about me helping him….as I pulled out more wipes and cleaned his skin, I realized – I was tickling his foot! I couldn’t help laughing with him as I talked with him about how he must be a little crazy to laugh at something that should be making his foot burn. He only laughed harder. As I cleaned I kept stopping to bat flies away – why did they have to buzz in my face right now?! – and I continued to talk as I worked (it helps me deal with digging the dirt out, and it’s a great chance to learn more about the person I’ve taken by the hand to come a little closer as I attempt to help them with what resources God’s given us here). With the caked on dirt today, I asked to confirm my suspicions, “do you have sandals?” Rodney replied in between giggles, “no”.

I’m used to kids who are barefoot, but sometimes they just have sandals they aren’t using, especially boys. I had suspected it anyw– HEY! For real, why do I have to keep waving flies away??!

Then I turned my head to look over at Rodney. In the same shirt for at least two days now, no sandals and his sweet face that had now turned to wincing as the tickling had finally cleaned down to the wound and was now burning slightly….I was batting bugs away because they were swarming HIM. Attracted to him, they circled his head – something he was clearly used to as he was not fazed or even attempting to wave his hand at them.

Now, a lot of teams come here with big hearts and say, “They don’t care what they look like, and they’re so happy!” – –
in the most delicate way I can say this,
not true. Yes, America cares a ridiculous amount MORE and spends mountains more on appearance, but my friends in Bercy care. You dress up for market, you bathe each day, and school is like getting ready for Easter Sunday on a daily basis. Kids may not bathe every day, just like in the States, but they DO bathe, okay? And they notice every speck of dirt – because they point it out, too. And here’s Rodney. I’m guessing it’s been at least three days in this orange tank top since his last bath – which is really just some cups of dirty water and soap scrubbed in.

I sit in our loft and overlook a dry and impoverished community. I drive through Port-au-Prince on occasion and see the overpopulation, the building right on top of rubble, the trash that seems to coat the road at times. In market I buy from women who are fighting for their life, rising early in the morning to ride into Cabaret on a donkey and sell some ‘provisions’ to make just enough gourde to scratch a meal together that will be split to feed triple the amount of people that it’s meant to. These have become a part of the day, the scenery around me, that’s the environment of the country that my Father wants me to call home. These things don’t really “break” me every time I see (& smell) them. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying, the overarching issues still tug at me and they don’t rest well in my heart, there’s no “it’s okay, that’s just how things are here*”.

But it’s these moments, it’s one-on-one interactions, many times with someone I was not even planning on pulling closer into my life, that break my heart all over again. This sweet boy, who has been playing with an old tire all week after a month of making and showing off handmade kites from old bags and sticks, who is wearing this SAME orange shirt and nothing else – including some sort of shoe that could keep incidents like stepping on bottles and everything else that has scarred him from happening. This boy, who did not ask to be helped and giggles through the first half of cleaning his dirt caked wound and sweetly listens to each instruction I give, quickly acting to wash his foot or turn it ‘just so’ as I open another alcohol wipe. He is caked in the same dirt as yesterday, which today’s dust has piled on top of….and these flies are swarming around his tiny head because of it.

Boys are dirty. It’s a fact of life. But not all boys, including in the kids here, have bugs attracted to them because of how long their family has gone without enough water to spare for a bath. (After all, there’s no money for Rodney to go to school so why use the bath water? He’s not going ‘out’. In the economy of life here, I really do understand why that makes sense in the family.) Not all boys are wearing that same oversized pumpkin orange tank top with nothing else, including sandals to guard little feet running through broken glass.

It’s in these moments that God chooses to break my heart again. It’s getting in people’s lives up close, it’s in the details where God finds space to speak to our hearts. For a boy I wasn’t planning on, who runs past me
with his ‘cap’ or old tire each day. It’s in these moments that I break from the inside out, God WHY? Why is money distributed so unevenly and why are we so full of ourselves yet still unsatisfied and why doesn’t Rodney have a pair of stinkin’ two dollar and fifty cent sandals? Flies were not meant to swarm around little boys heads.


Two nights ago Rodney sat outside a church service in Bercy on his tire (I’m not kidding, it goes everywhere), looking in as the overcrowded building sang as loud as it could. I sat down beside him and put a plastic bag on the inside of the rubber. He knew what I was doing but didn’t look. In whispers, “God gave me some sandals for you. Please don’t tell people that I gave them to you, okay?” And we sat on the tire together, watching the congregation file out into the community as they continued to sing the whole walk home.

Yesterday Rodney was running around as I walked out of Nadia’s yard. A pair of black sandals from market on his feet, he looked up at me with a glint in his eye and grabbed my hand to squeeze it for a moment. I squeezed it back and I pray, God, that he really does look back one day and understand where those sandals came from.

{*I’m reading an excellent book that actually comments on this, kind of. My heart is stirring over a quote I’m sure you’ll hear from me soon.}


5 thoughts on “It’s in the details

  1. This is such an amazing example of what God does for us. He cleans our feet and deepest wounds. It doesn’t matter how many times we get ourselves into trouble and let dirt come into our lives, he’ll be there to pick us up and wipe the dirt off. He is the ultimate cleanser. He’ll take care of us even when we can’t take care of ourself and provide for us even when we are undeserving.

  2. Stephanie, thanks for giving me a glimpse of life I never see. My world gets larger when I read your thoughts. Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone


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