I’m not sure anyone should read this post. This is FAR from a happy post.
It starts inside the gates of a Ugandan hospital. It starts getting out of the car and looking around convinced I must be in the wrong spot. It couldn’t be a hospital. It looked like a slum. And I now know what a slum looks like.
The building that my friend was walking towards looked like a long-neglected homeless center – a dirt colored and dirt covered single story building with peeling paint and people lying on the improbably lush grass. I asked where she was going – “to the cancer ward.”
I walked up a tattered, rain-eroded, former concrete ramp carrying a box full of bottled water wondering what sort of thing I’d wandered into. I walked through the door and into bodies strewn here and there and into crying and into blank faces and into contorted faces. I tucked the box in a tattered office and turned the corner and found myself facing even more faces… and bodies… and my mind tried to assimilate it all… the mass of people… the children lying listlessly… the child with an open tumor on her face and neck so large it seemed almost a second head – something from a really, really scary horror film… the different colored blankets on each bed… the worn blankets… the complete absence of any medical personnel… the scent in the air that I could not name but that made my stomach turn…
…the children and the caregivers looked at me expectantly. Surely, their eyes seemed to be saying, I was there to give relief to the moaning and crying children. I had empty hands.
I winked at the girl with the huge tumor and she smiled back… she scared me… I didn’t really want to be near here… I didn’t want to be there. But she sidled up to me and grabbed my hand and I looked down into her bright eyes and started making silly faces and she smiled and she grabbed my other hand.
Give her some water, my friend suggested.
Then it dawned on me. Water. They had no clean water there. No clean water in a hospital. We went to get the water and to mix it up with some Emergen-C that Kim had packed for me to take. I gave her a bottle and poured some of the vitamin mix into it and showed her how to shake it up and watch it fizz. She giggled.
Other kids came around – they wanted water. They wanted food. I heard one say excitedly that he had eaten today. “I had a banana!!”
People pressed in for bottles of water. But I didn’t want to give them out to the adults. I wanted to give them to the kids. And every time a parent took one I was secretly very angry.
The little girl, named Grace… again, started moaning and crying a bit. Someone said she said it hurt when the flies were in her tumor.
There was a little boy named Peter in with a particularly aggressive lymphoma – the tumor cells were taking over his bone marrow, were competing with red and white blood cells, were causing pressure to build in his bones, were causing great pain. No one had shown up to give him pain killers. No one had shown up to treat him. He just cried softly.
A waterless, doctor-less, medicine-less, dirty, over crowded cancer ward for children. If it wasn’t hell it was a suburb.
I talked to someone who said, “The hospital,it was actually better under Idi Amin.” And so it is true from having talked to others. There were clean sheets, pillows, and blankets. Food was served. There was water. Today there are none of those things.
I gave every bit of money I had to anyone who asked. I had to say no to others because I had nothing else. I’d have given my camera and phone had I thought it would help.
Never have I felt so completely, totally and utterly helpless and hopeless as I do right now.
Where does this hell end?
Where is the hope for these people?
I would be ranting against God save for the fact that the people in that room were not ranting against God. They clung to God.
“Jesus,” one woman said, “he promised it was easier for a poor man to enter heaven than a rich man. That is what the Bible says.”
For us? For us rich Americans? Oh man. All I can think is that God cannot be pleased. He cannot be pleased by the suffering. He cannot be pleased that we allow it to happen.
And make no mistake we do let it happen. We let it happen when we make paltry, pitiful contributions to charities that are making a difference. We let it happen every time we let our politicians fly through elections without making them answer questions about what they will do about poverty. We let it happen by living lives where we focus more on Britney Spears and other ridiculous celebrities. We let it happen and one day God will make us answer for it. I’m not looking forward to that day.
For all who say, “Oh no, I’m saved, I’ll be fine,” I will simply point to those very disturbing passages in the New Testament where Jesus says the judgment day will bring some really big surprises.
Somewhere there is hope. Somewhere there is a way to make a difference. Somewhere there are answers. I just have no idea where somewhere is right now.