For the last 5 years, I was an engineer in Corporate America. So before taking on my new role at Watermark's Questcare Clinic, the most medical thing I knew how to do was pick out a Benefit Plan. But these last few weeks, my horizons have been expanded into the complicated, messy, sometimes awkward world of medicine.
For two months, I’ve spent my days getting to know and serving alongside an awesome team of volunteers and staff. As our volunteers have allowed me to peek into their lives, I have been constantly blown away by the gumption and tenderheartedness of this team. From night nurses squeezing a shift at the clinic into their already crazy schedules, to stay-at-home moms finding childcare so they can come serve, these folks are doing powerful things to be available for a community in need.
While I’ve been impressed in a number of ways, one particular story has stuck out to me so far. I met one volunteer, Victoria, during my first week, and while she’s not from the south, her accent and the sweetness of her speech would imply she is. You’d be hard pressed not to be won over by her kind words and gentle spirit.
In our first brief encounter, she commented that she thought a person with scabies had visited the clinic that day. So she had wiped down the counters and room extra carefully.
I promptly Googled "scabies," only to find out that it’s a skin rash caused by a mite. “Ok,” I secretly thought. “Avoid touching anything and anyone for the rest of the day to make sure you don’t somehow get scabies.”
Over the next few weeks though, my instinct to disengage due to disease was challenged. I came to find out that in previous months, Victoria had actually gotten scabies from serving at the clinic. She had been hugging on and loving a sick little baby, and then later that week she came to find out that she had been infected because of it. In the time that followed, Victoria had to do a deep clean of her house linens and do her best to avoid spreading scabies to her husband and children.
Now for most of us, that would be reason enough never to show up somewhere and serve again. I can see the email now:
"Dear Clinic Coordinator, I have gotten scabies. Can I go home now? I don’t think I’ll be back."
But that email was never sent. And Victoria has been back just about every week since.
It's odd - what would possess someone to return? At the very least, surely Victoria has stopped caring for patients the same way now, right? Perhaps she’s changed her demeanor with patients - offering kind words, but no more hugging?
Nope. She’s just started wearing long sleeves.
What a lesson for us to learn! Here is a woman entering into the mess of real life around her. And every once in a while, that mess will cause her to get messy as well.
As Christians, when the “fun” of serving wears off, do we disengage? When the moments are no longer Instagram-able and we can't take a smiling selfie, or when we head home without a fun story but with a mite infestation instead, do we take our talents elsewhere?
I hope not. I hope we take the lessons learned from the experience, buy some long sleeves, and get back into the thick of it. We continue to encounter people in their mess - and love them towards something better. This is happening every day at the clinic, where men and women like Victoria are engaging with a hurting community. And no matter what mess might get in the way, they’re choosing to love.
So THAT is my pitch for you to come serve at the clinic with us - or to find your own place to dive in to serve! I can’t promise you won’t get scabies. I can’t promise you won’t walk away untouched by the difficult stories of the patients or others you serve. But I can promise your definition of love will be challenged by the men and women serving alongside you. Their boldness has challenged me, and I know they will encourage you.