“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
-Dr. Suess, The Lorax

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Appreciation

Ever notice how easy it is to be critical of someone other than yourself?  Well, actually, no….most folks don’t realize how easy it is.  Most folks don’t realize how much they criticize others.  That is, until they have the chance to walk in someone else’s shoes.  (Ouch!)
I am one of those folks.  And today I changed my perspective.   I walked in someone else’s shoes….or perhaps I should say, someone else’s flip-flops.  Thank you, Lord, for humility.   I needed a good dose of it.  Don’t we all? 
This is me:  a typical American.   What does that mean, in this context, at least?  Well, it means I am used to things being up to a certain standard (my standard).  Things should be done a certain way (my way).  Things should be done in a certain timeframe (my timeframe). 
I think you get the point.  And I think I’m pretty typical.  We Americans tend to believe that everything in  our little world…no matter where in the world we happen to be on any given day….should go according to the way we expect them to go.  Even if those expectations are unreasonable.  Shallow.  Short-sighted.  Uneducated.  Uninformed.  Ignorant.  Irrational.  Selfish. 
Note to self:  Get over it.  (And I invite others to do the same.)
I’m guessing you are wondering how I got my dose of humility today.  Well, here’s the scoop:
This morning there was a funeral for a long-time beloved staff member of GLA that passed away last week.  In order for the staff and all the nannies to be able to attend, someone had to take care of the babies, obviously.  (What?  Taking 40-something babies to a funeral doesn’t sound like a good idea?)  A solution was put into place: the volunteers would cover the nursery during the funeral.  Of course!  How hard could it be, right?  Riiiiiight…..
During my time volunteering at this orphanage (which is a top-notch orphanage, mind you), a few things have annoyed me.  Nothing major, but small annoyances gave me enough ground to grumble under my breath, justifiably,  so I thought.  And I’ve heard the grumblings of other volunteers as well.  Again, nothing extraordinary…..just a few things that didn’t fit our standards. 
You want examples, don’t you?  Of course you do.  You want the scoop.  The ugly stuff.  That’s what we like to flock to like vultures…..a big pile of nasty, stinky, ugly grumblings.  Grumblings that are usually worth their weight in poop.  And around here, poop just happens to be one category of grumblings.   When you are in a place that is home to over 40 babies….let’s just say, there’s plenty of poop to go around.
Dried snot and boogers as big as the nostrils they are nestled in.  Poopy diapers (bonus if oozing up the back or down the leg) that have obviously been plastered to a tiny bottom for a while.   Bottle sharing (or more likely, bottle swiping).  Outfits that don’t quite fit, or are stained or have a hole.  Crying babies.  Plentiful supply of crying babies.
Sound horrid?  Not a place you would even consider leaving your child at?  Just awful!  Tsk, tsk. 
Well, folks, get over it.
This morning, my fellow volunteers and I were in charge of the babies for a few hours.  To be accurate, we didn’t even have to tend to the tiniest and frailest babies, as they were tended to by their nurse.  And to be honest, we had one Haitian nurse in with us to help us out with bottle-making. 
So how’d it go?  How much more awesome were we at maintaining order and getting the job done “the way it should be”?  <Insert sheepish laugh here.>
Yeah, it wasn’t pretty.  We managed, but not gracefully.  We did it, but we were exhausted.  A few moments of panic/exasperation/frustration and a lot of clock-checking, wondering how long funerals last in Haiti. 
I lost count as to how many poopy diapers I changed, and the other volunteers were changing them as well.  Here’s how it went:
As soon as one bottom was clean, another was primed for changing.   Gross, stinky poop that, in no time flat, often had seeped through to the clothes.  Clean the bottom and then search for an outfit that will fit this kid.  Maybe this one will work?  Nope, try again.  Boogers?  No time for that….the next kid is in line for a changing.  Where did your bottle go, little guy?  Why does that kid have two bottles?  I guess I’ll take one of them and give it to you.  Problem solved…..well enough, at least.  Why is there a diaper in the floor?  Someone must have stripped naked, because here’s a puddle of pee.  Butt check!  After 15 bottoms patted, the naked one is discovered.  Sneaky, aren’t you?!  Now, where did my little guy go that had boogers?  Wait, which one was it?  I forgot.  Oh well, I’ll catch up with those boogers eventually.  Right now I need to go stop that kid from climbing on the furniture and nose-diving onto the ceramic tile.  Too late.  Thank goodness he’s tough.  No blood, no worries.  Turn around to see four crying babies at my feet, demanding my attention.  I sit on the floor to comfort them.  A shoving match for the prime lap seat begins.  More crying.  And someone smells gross…but who is it?  I don’t even want to look.  I don’t want to change another one…the smell of the last one is still stuck in my nose.  Oh, wait – it’s her.  I can tell because she just left a poopy smudge on my lap when she stood up.  Stand up to take her to the changing room, and the other six (more kids joined our party) now scream in protest of me leaving them.  I step over them, but one has a death-grip on my ankle.  I drag him a few feet across the floor until I manage to wiggle free, all the while holding stinky butt.  Stinky butt is joyfully waving “Good-bye!” as we head out of the room.  Then with disappointment of entering the changing room, instead of going to the play balcony, her own protest begins.  I try not to let poop smear all over me.   Talking to her in my happy voice, trying not to gag as I remove the poop bomb, she coughs in my face.  Awesome.  Guess that cold is why she has half-inch thick boogers hanging out of her nose.  But I only have two hands, I’m up to my elbows in poop, and someone is in the other room asking me a question.   Boogers can wait.
How do those amazing nannies do it?  Bless their underappreciated souls.  All day, every day, this is what they do.  And they do it with grace and love, all while frequently being critiqued and looked down upon by volunteers that have no idea how difficult a job they have.   
I have gotten over it.  And to all you future volunteers:  heads up.  Get over it before you even get on that plane to come to Haiti. 
GLA nannies rock.  And they love these kids.  Proof?  Happy, content orphans. 
A stinky diaper or a crusty nose DOES NOT outweigh the value of the love and nurturing given in this place.  Now I shall put back on my flip-flops and drag my exhausted body out of the nursery and get a strong cup of coffee. 
Humility.  I highly recommend it.   And a really thorough hand washing.  


wannabe said...

I'm exhausted just reading your write up of it! No clue how they do it!

Anonymous said...

The words you have written makes me appreciate all the work that everyone does at the GLA orphanage or any orphanage. God bless all the workers and their families.