Perspective

Writing from Tbilisi, Georgia:

This morning we left our home and started on the long, windy, mountainous road that takes us from Armenia into the Republic of Georgia.

As we were driving through the maze of fog and livestock crossing the road, we passed a Kurdish village that looked very familiar. I looked out to the left, and I saw the house that I had the opportunity to visit just last week.

I remember stepping out of the car and being greeted by the family’s grandmother – the queen bee of the household. She kissed me on my cheek, and ushered us inside to a group of women who were waiting to hear Dr. Naomi’s community health teaching.

We were still waiting for some women to free themselves from their daily mandated chores at home and arrive for the training. As we were waiting, the doctor began to listen to each woman’s personal issues and give them medical advice.

The “wife” of the home (the young daughter-in-law) had caught my attention. She was beautiful – light hazel eyes and chestnut brown hair. I think she was my age, but the hardness of her life made her look nearly 10 years older. When I looked at her, I saw sharpness in her eye. She was the engine of the house, and nothing went on that she did not notice.

I saw her bring her timid eight year old son into the room. As they sat down adjacent the doctor, I noticed that the boy looked at me with eyes of a normal, active boy. But, the drool running out of his mouth and awkward tongue movements revealed a challenging problem: he could not speak.

It was obvious that he could understand and reason normally, but he could not control his tongue. He simply did not have a voice.

I felt like I was looking at a person trapped by his body.

This mother explained how she had done everything in her limited means to help her son. She’d taken him to doctors, had a procedure done that “untied” his tongue, and took him to a speech therapist. All of this was done with very little means and took great sacrifice. She asked for advice, and she asked for God to do a miracle.

At that moment, it was more than I could bear. Everyone in the room was staring at me as tears began to quietly flow.

Dr. Naomi, whose back was turned to me, said, “It seems like you’ve done everything possible. Olivia has had similar issues with her son, and I’d like to ask her to pray for you.”

Similar issues? Similar issues? I knew it was true, but at the same time, I could not compare my story to this woman’s who had endured so much more.

Yes, I also have a son who has had developmental and speech delays.

Yes, I also have a son that I believe is very smart, but has had people judge him because he can’t grip a pencil correctly or speak with clarity and fluency expected of him.

Yes, I’ve tried everything within my means to help him and my means have fallen short. I’ve lived a life overseas in a country that does not have English speech therapists or occupational therapists.

Yes, I, like this mother, love him more than anything and pray to God that He will lighten my son’s burden and heal his body so that he can truly express himself with ease and confidence.

But, I am not like this mother. My son can talk.

Suddenly, I felt as if the five years of worry and pain I have felt during my journey with Oliver were being multiplied one hundred times as I watched this woman’s simple repetitive action of taking a napkin and wiping the drool from her mute son’s mouth.

I stood up and I prayed with all the faith I had within me.

I firmly declared that God had given this boy a voice, even if it was never heard.

I asked God to reach His healing hand into this boy’s body and to do a miracle.

I affirmed the love of the mother and reassured her that God had heard her cries and had seen everything she had done for her son.

I pleaded with God to work on this boy’s behalf. Heal him. Help his body give wings to his voice.

If living overseas has taught me anything, it has taught me perspective.

Perspective. Life is all about perspective. My son struggles to hold a pen correctly, tie his shoes, and sometimes studders and has words that are incomprehensible.

This woman is holding on and waiting for her eight year old son to cry out one single word. I realize that I am privileged to feel just a little of the pain she is feeling. And, because of that pain, I can cry out with more of a fervency, belief and hope that God can heal him.

And, I am reminded of what a great privilege it is to live in Armenia and realize that I am a part of a greater sisterhood.

True, I may be giving up the sisterhood of my American friends who meet and sip coffee weekly as their kids play. I really miss that.

But, in exchange, God has allowed me to be part of an international sisterhood of women – rich and poor, loved and rejected, hopeful and hopeless.

And, once again, over and over, I am reminded that we are all the same.

You can strip everything away from me and place me in a Kurdish village. I can give them the best of everything and place them in a NYC café.

We both have dreams. We both have sharp minds we’re dying to use. We both try to make the best of any situation and open any door possible. We both love and sacrifice anything for our children.

We all cry. We all bleed. We all love. We all laugh. Some of us just have more open doors; more possibilities.

God, you see the disparity between us.

So today, I lift up this prayer for these Kurdish women and their families:
Let them experience your grace, even stronger.
Your love, even deeper .
Your presence, even greater.
And, please give that little boy a voice.