“There—that stone there—that’s why the doctor said we need to go to Samarinda,” my husband's friend says.
I’m sitting on the floor of a room the size of a closet where this Indonesian family of five will sleep tonight. My husband’s friend’s mother—the one whose organ has the “stone” stands and wobbles to the open “bathroom” in the back to vomit.
Now that she’s gone, her son explains that his mother two tumors, needs to go to a bigger city for an operation, but they don’t have the money to get any more treatment. So, they will probably just go home and not tell his mom what the doctor said.
I had driven them from the hospital to the rental room—a shack—not really knowing where I was going (past the Buddhist temple, then the mosque, you’ll see a mango tree and turn right at a narrow alley). And the thought had crossed my mind that I wish I’d just given them the money for a taxi who knows the back roads and could take them directly there instead of getting lost like we did.
I am sleep deprived from two weeks of sick kids and am supposed to be napping or resting or facebooking--some well-earned "me-time" while the kids nap. And I am ashamed to say that I sighed and grumbled and thought “poor me” when Brad called just as the kids started to sleep to ask if I could pick them up when I was finally supposed to get a break from whining and snot.
I left the kids with a sitter and drove to the hospital. Now I sit and listen and process as I hear how this family—a pastor from a small village interior—have no health insurance or money and have to watch their mother die of cancer. Their congregation is tiny with very few followers from a primitive, jungle-dwelling ethnic group still bound to their old animistic ways. This family serves and gets nothing in return.
My husband knows them from when they used to live in a remote Borneo jungle village where my husband would often land his MAF airplane. He spends his days carrying people like these, knows a smattering of their tribal languages, and glows when he talks about his passengers by name. He has greatly missed his friend, who moved a year ago to a village not yet reached by the airplane.
Before I leave to return home to my napping kids, I hand them some bottled water, a pillow and a sleeping bag, knowing it isn’t enough. I don’t feel good about helping. I mean, yes, of course, it’s nice to help. But the need is a big one—one that would take operations and plane tickets and a lot of money and time with no guaranteed fix. She might still die of cancer.
I back my car out of the narrow alleyway—trying not to scrape the clothes line or fall off into the open-sewer or hit a motorcycle. I think about what it’s like to really serve. The hunger doesn’t go away after one meal. The sick sometimes get sicker. The poor usually need more than mere cash. The solution is not a check I can send in the mail or bake in my oven or find at the bottom of my closet.
But I am so, so glad I didn’t just give them money for a taxi.
I got to meet a family who serves, even though they need, who gives what they don’t even have, who supports those who can’t give back.
I drive home, amazed, humbled and changed.