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today, i'm thankful for a cow

Posted Nov 26 2009 12:29pm
It's American Thanksgiving today. On a ship filled with people from thirty nations, in a country only one or two of us call home, we're celebrating in style. Tonight's dinner promises to be one to remember, and I have friends who have decided to make it even more special. At least, that's what I'm assuming based on the hand-turkey invite (stuck to my door with a magnet, of course) that tells me to come dressed looking my best.

And today there is much for which to be thankful.

In the dark watches of the night this week, as I stared up at the ceiling, all I could see were the faces of the patients still in their beds in B Ward. I ran them through my mind one after another, wondering how we could arrange everything before Friday. The time seemed so short, and they were so many.

Therese. Beatrice. Christine. Veronique. Francoise. Benedicte. Jacob. Kossiwa. Josua. Ali. Wasti.

Over and over, all night long, I would wake up with their names on my lips, on my heart. All day, I would work to gather supplies, write letters, arrange transport, and still the time has seemed so short.

One by one, though, they are going home. Kossiwa yesterday. Jacob, Ali and Veronique today. The rest in the morning, to homes and clinics and hospitals where they will be cared for until they are well. By lunchtime the wards will be empty, the outreach finished for the year.

And somewhere, on a bus heading north, will be a mama and her little baby, his huge black eyes staring out at the world around him, his lip held together with a row of tiny knots. Somewhere in her possession, hidden away from prying eyes and thieving hands, that mama will have a little plastic bag filled with her future: the money to buy a new cow.

Today, I am thankful for Wasti's mama. I'm thankful that she sold everything she had to come to the ship, seeking a new life for her baby. I'm thankful that she kisses his face and rubs lotion on his skin and patiently feeds him every three hours. I'm thankful that she almost didn't accept the small sum of money we've already given her, the money she will need when we drop her off at the bus station tomorrow morning before the sun has risen. It's too much, she told her nurse. You have already done too much for me.

I'm thankful for all the people here on the ship who heard the story of a broken baby and jumped at the chance to be a part of his healing. I'm thankful that I get to be there, later this evening, when we give her the money for her new cow.

I'm so thankful for that cow.

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