5.19.2019

But Doctor, You Promised Me a Shoe!

I was in clinic several months ago when a very talkative lady with a perpetual smile, some missing teeth and a deformed foot came for a consultation. She couldn't bear weight on her foot as it was chronically infected. I felt that a partial amputation and an operation to try to clear the infection could help. Somewhere in that conversation I mentioned that she would probably be able to walk better with a good shoe after all was said and done.

She arrived for her operation and reminded me at the time of her discharge that I had promised her a shoe (which I had not, and tried to clarify that I am not in the habit of giving out shoes). I saw her several weeks later in follow-up and her wound wasn't quite healed yet but she reminded me again that I had promised her a shoe. Again, through translation, I did my best to inform her that this was not in fact the case.

Several weeks ago she turned up at the hospital again to show me that her foot had completely healed and she could now walk on it. She was extremely happy and grateful. Oh, and did I have the shoe I promised her? I honestly was so happy that she could now walk but I felt that I would never be able to discharge this lady without a shoe.

I have never encountered a Burundian who was in any way disrespectful to me, but it is not uncommon to be asked for things. Children often will ask for my pens or candy, people will ask for money. Employees will occasionally ask for tea or sugar. It's awkward and uncomfortable for me but I am getting used to it. I also see it as an extremely reasonable question. I live in a nice house, on a nice compound. I wear nice shoes. I have resources to make improvements at the hospital. I have many pens in my pockets. Most people around me have relatively little compared to me. Why not ask the guy who has a lot? I think I would do the same.


These questions remind me that I really must pray and rely on wisdom because giving every time someone asks for something can cause a whole slew of problems. At the same time, not giving when asked can be cruel and uncompassionate. I am sure I have and will continue to make mistakes in this regard. But as this talkative lady, with the biggest smile I have ever seen, missing teeth and all, asked me again for a shoe that I did not in fact promise her, I felt I needed to come up with a shoe.

Thankfully someone on our compound was able to find a bag of some old shoes on short order, none of which fit her perfectly, but she found one that fit her amputated foot. She was the most grateful person I have seen after having received an old pair of shoes and "walked" home singing.

Thank you, smiling patient, for helping me realize that I need to be generous and I also need to not shy away from opportunities to demonstrate compassion and good judgement. I understand in a small way what God must think when we come to Him with our requests.... JESH

Luke 18: 1-8