I've been doing some pretty cool things lately too! In the last post I told you about in.Light.in, the ministry that I'm a part of that caters to the children of Portsmouth. A specific need for a specific child has been weighing heavily on our hearts this semester, and this week I got to contribute, at least a little bit, to that need being met! Here is Calvin:
He LOVES popcorn!
He has a condition called Bottle Rot that comes from eating and drinking too many sugary things and not taking in enough calcium. Obviously poor dental hygiene also comes into play. It's a fairly common thing among children in poverty...
The other kids tease him (and even some of the adults). They call him "Black Teeth" and other mean things. I'm not sure if there's any pain associated with it, but I'm sure if there is that he has grown accustomed to it at this point. He is such a sweet little angel and we all felt really inspired to pitch in and help him out. So this week, my sweet friend Elise and I went with him and his mother Junie to the dentist. Let me just paint you a picture of the pediatric dentist experience here in Dominica:
You walk UP the hill to the hospital in Portsmouth. The outside kind of looks like one of those scary insane asylums in horror films. You walk down into this little garage looking thing outside where there are some benches and you sit down. The smell of bad hospital food and moldy cheese wafts through from the meal room whose entrance is there. An equally strong and even more offensive odor of feces and urine waft through from the laundry room that is adjacent to the dentist office. Children and their parents are waiting outside these double doors. A hygienist steps out and calls a kid's name. That kid starts screaming bloody murder and is dragged behind the double doors by his father. Blood curdling screams and sobs are heard behind the door for 5-7 minutes. Then the child and his father walk back out, the child's mouth filled with bloodied cotton chunks and his face streaked in tears. They sit and await their name to be called again to have yet another tooth pulled 15-20 minutes later. At least 3 teeth were pulled on this poor baby while we waited with our sweet Calvin.
Poor Calvin was terrified. He didn't speak a word and wouldn't even smile. Usually I can get at least a little half smile out of him, but today I could tell he was not having it. Then his mother says, "Today is his birthday. He is 7." And I'm thinking, wow. What a crappy way to spend your birthday! We tried to distract him from the screaming children. He was growing visibly agitated with every passing minute. Wringing his hands, swinging his legs. Elise brought out a few books which distracted him briefly and then the kid would start crying again and he'd be back to wringing those little hands. Then I remembered that I had a recorder (a plastic flute/clarinet looking thing for those of you who don't know) in my backpack (can you tell I'm a music teacher?). What kid doesn't love a noise-maker?? So I pull it out and hand it to him and tell him to blow it. He timidly puts a little puff of air through the mouthpiece and it lets out a little whistle. And his little face lights up like the 4th of July. Finally that sweet little Calvin smile emerges! So he sneakily lets out a few more little whistles on the recorder and seems to be adequately distracted. Though even the best toy would have a hard time distracting from those sad little screams coming from our snaggle toothed friend. Even poor Elise was disturbed o_0
Then the fateful "Calvin" comes from the mouth of the hygienist behind the double doors. She has a surgical mask on and a few little specks of blood on her scrubs. Calvin looks up. Takes a deep breath. Grabs his mother's hand. And walks like a total champ right into those double doors. We didn't hear a peep out of him! About 10 minutes later he comes walking out of the double doors and makes a B-line for me sitting on the bench. He lets me pick him up and cradle him and kiss his little forehead and tell him how brave he is. There are little tears on the sides of his face, but he doesn't make a sound. He just sits there and lets me rock him while Junie fills us in on what the dentist had said. Basically, the dentist won't pull his bottle rotten teeth until they are loose. She says it will be too painful for him (which I deduced means that they don't do anesthesia). They went ahead and did a quick cleaning, but he will have to come back when his front teeth are "shaking" (we call that loose) and they will fill some of his cavities and pull those loose teeth all in one fail swoop. So Calvin escaped the worst on his birthday, but he must go back in a short few months when his baby teeth start coming loose.
So we walk off the hospital grounds and down to where they live. Calvin is wearing, by the way, muddy dilapidated Air Jordans that don't lace and probably don't fit, a pair of orange corduroy pants with flowers embroidered on the hem (clearly pants meant for a girl) that are about 4 sizes too small for him, and a white button down shirt. When we arrive at their house, all I see is scrap metal and rotted wood. His brothers and sisters stream out of the yard (all 4 of them) and give us all warm smiles and hugs. He is one of 7 children between the ages of 17 and 4. We stand and talk to Junie about how else we can help. She tells us that she needs help outfitting the children with school uniforms and we happily oblige to get her some help for that. The only thing standing in the way of an education for these sweet babies is the proper clothes and shoes...surely we can help! As we are getting ready to leave, she thanks us profusely and we say "Tell Calvin we say Happy Birthday again!" (he has already gone back into the yard to forget about his horrid morning). She says "I will tell him. I wish I had money to get him a birthday present." And I think, "I've got a perfectly good recorder in my backpack." So we call him back over, I hand him the recorder and say "Happy Birthday dude. This is for you! We love you!" And he smiles again!
We hug Junie, she says "God bless you!", and we walk away. As we are walking the sounds of a happy child playing his birthday recorder with no inhibitions fills the air. And my heart is happy! I feel like I want to go home and give that sweet family any and everything I could maybe part with. And I remember that other than the task of completing med school, God has brought us here to this tiny little island in the Atlantic to be His hands and feet.
The King said, 'I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you have done these things for someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it for me.' - Matthew 25:40
There has been such an outpouring of love and support for Calvin and his sweet family that I set up a donation site where you can contribute to his cause! Head HERE and donate any amount you'd like. Every bit, no matter how big or small, will be appreciated beyond measure!