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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Love Languages

From two cards stuck into random files, found yesterday.
I love you daddy and mommy cuse you love me.
I will try to couse no trouble to you. But I can't promese. I will oh bay you I will get everthing you nede.
From dinner last night, sitting around the table with a couple who have been loyal friends over these many years. . .
Bamparana and Donatina are about our age, though they've been married longer, and have befriended us since our arrival (he remembered meeting us in Kampala when we came in '93, Luke was an infant, we had gone to the only place to make an international phone call in the country, the Sheraton hotel lobby). Bamparana and his wife's memories of being loved centered on a time her mother was sick and almost dying, and Scott treated her, and the healing was a miraculous gift in their eyes. Another time when he was in a serious financial situation and Scott gave him a job. And the two years we spent paying one of their kids' school fees. Love in practical, hands-on, tangible gifts.
My outstanding memories of them . . .
After the disastrous Baptism party for Jack in which our hired musicians sang tribally divisive songs accusing the Bakonjo of being behind the ADF, and Jonah stormed out with his family . . Bamparana was the only church leader who went to say sorry, to smooth things over with Jonah. After Caleb had a horrific night of emergency surgery in Bundibugyo hospital, Bamparana was waiting at our house, praying when we came back. And when Scott's death was announced on the radio during Ebola and everyone was so afraid, Bamparana and Byarufu risked their lives (it seemed) anyway to come to our house and find out the truth. Love as loyalty, presence.
My love for the people of Bundibugyo . .
A paltry token of doing yet another day of rounds. Of bearing the burdens, making the phone calls, helping with transport, so Heidi and Travis can take a day away. Of noticing a little girl sitting in a peculiar way, patting her back and confirming that she had a classic deformity associated with TB of the spine, tracing her family and finding out she was a sibling of a newly admitted malnourished child whom we had suspected of TB, now the case was much stronger. Of another day of helping the staff not give up, of standing against apathy and dissolution. It pains me to see how quickly the care is diminishing as we at WHM pull back and give less input. I'm tempted to feel all was in vain. But I know it wasn't, that there is a slow but sure change in expectation, that the staff skills are triple what they were a decade ago, that this is a small step back that will eventually turn around again.
A patient's love for me . .
When I got back from the morning at the hospital, I remembered that one of my patients' moms had phoned asking to see me today, and had not shown up. But there she was in the kitubbi, waiting. I admit my heart sank. This child was born with posterior urethral valves, and the saga of obtaining surgical correction for him filled two years and untold phone calls, trips to Kampala, letters, contacts, complaints, threats. It put me up against a corrupt surgeon who for a while was the only person in Uganda with the requisite skills to fix Paulo. The story had a happy ending when HOPE Ward helped him connect with an alternative consultant at last, though I saw him a half dozen more times for issues in wound closure post-op. Anyway this is one of the most persistent moms in Uganda, and together we brought Paulo through a problem that could have killed him. Now he's a normal 6 year old. So I was dreading what could be wrong now. But nothing was wrong. She had dressed Paulo in a classy striped suit, and brought me a huge stalk of bananas, a live chicken, and a local woven chair her father made himself, to say thank you. I was floored. It was a gift from them, but also a gift from God, a representation of all the kids over all the years.
Community love for the hurting . . .
And finally, just back from a very depressing burial, the 2-and-a-half year old child of CSB's cook. He went to a semi-private health center for treatment of his sickle cell yesterday, rather than the hospital where he could have been transfused. And did not live long enough to be transferred. At the scene of mourning, this is what love looks like: body to body closeness, hips touching, scrunched, a small room, the boy's mother flailing her arms and hugging his dead body as she wails and faints, the no-nonsense take-charge touch of older women holding her up, spooning her sugar water, loosening her wraps, catching her wild arms. The house surrounded by more women, holding their own babies, quiet tears recognizing that they too are vulnerable. Men sitting a bit further back, in the shade of the cocoa, together on benches.
The love languages: words, gifts, focused time, service, more gifts, and physical touch. All seen here today.
But there are language barriers here, too. The Babwisi I believe are most fluent in the language of gifts. This is the way they sense love. Every relationship, from marriage to parenthood to neighbors is cemented by gift-giving. And their second language is touch, the no-personal-space proximity of the communal crowd. For me, the languages of focused time and words speak more clearly. Which can lead to problems, as we Americans resent being expected to give gifts and judge our relationships based on time and conversation, but our African friends use a completely different measure.
So as we leave we must try to communicate love in a way that is heard.

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