On a blog I recently started reading (but only go there if you're ready to have your heart torn up a little bit), the writer hosts "Five Minute Friday." Given a prompt, you're supposed to sit down and write for five minutes. No thinking, no editing. I've felt stuck recently, unsure of what to write or how to write it, but this, I think, I can do. This week's prompt is opportunity. Start the clock, release the words all jumbled up in my fingers.
I sat in the office the other day, entering patient information into the Smile Train database so that we can collect funding for the cleft lip surgeries we do. The current max-fax team leader is on vacation, so I'm filling in for her while she's away. It's done my heart a world of good to have my hands on patient charts again, to see their photos and read their stories in the hastily scrawled notes and pathways.
Most of them are children. Little ones just starting out who don't yet know how hard their lives will be if they have to live them with faces split wide open. Standard stuff, until I opened the last file and, staring back at me from behind the ragged gash of her lip, was a woman about my own age. I pulled out the paperwork I needed and another form slipped to the floor.
I picked it up, curious, since it's one we didn't use last year, and immediately felt my heart, tight as a fist in my chest.
Water source: river, lake, stream or rainwater
Toilet facilities: no facility or bush/field
What is your floor made of: earth, dirt or mud (Note: no house, just a tent)
Number of years of schooling: 0
Are you able to read: no
A world of opportunity, denied her because of how and where she was born. She could be me, and I could be her, but for the fortune of my birthplace and the way my face came together.
The year stretches in front of me like a promise, full of whatever I want, and she sits on her dirt floor, unable to read the writing on the discharge papers we gave her when she went home after her surgery.
I can only hope her new, unbroken smile is the key to open some of the doors that have been shut to her for the last thirty years.