I don’t like to think that I’m a germ freak or a clean fanatic or anything. I like to think that I’m pretty flexible and easygoing. I don’t like to think that I am egocentric or shallow…
But it’s dawned on me recently how much I also do not like dirty fingernails. Eating with my fingers was all fine and good, except that it felt a little germy, and my hand got dirty. I do not like doing my laundry by hand, because I feel like it might not actually be clean. It bugs me to wear a vest that is too large for me at the clinic where I work, and I always feel like I should clean the thermometer and pulse-ox between patients, which is just not practical with the number of patients we see. Also, squatty-potties are not quite my thing, and I wonder sometimes why it didn’t occur to the people of Bangladesh that it is much faster if you don’t have to wipe down the bathroom and squeegee the floor dry after showers. It makes so much sense to have an enclosed place just for taking showers. Then one doesn’t have to work so hard to keep one’s PJs from getting wet while one showers. Also, the floors are always dirty here, and the trash lines the street, and my fingernails and feet are often dirty, no matter how hard I try to keep them clean…
Alas, and alack, I am both a germ freak, inflexible, and egocentric. Bangladesh is teaching me that.
But it is also teaching me about love that sees beyond trash on streets and dirty fingernails. The people here are beyond hospitable. They are not busy and professional as I’ve been so often at home in America. They press tea and coffee on me, and pry me with questions about my family. One little girl brings me a gesture of friendship–handed through the window of the clinic. It is a fruit I don’t know the name for, but so sour it turns my mouth inside out. Bethanie, the nurse practitioner I work with, holds close sick babies, unalarmed by their lack of diapering, and their moms do the same. It is with love they do it, because they don’t want their babies to get diaper rash in the intense humidity of Bangladesh.
I am learning that love and cleanliness and comfort don’t always go together. I think about my time here and remember the discomforts God Himself took on to identify with us, and I ask myself if I can identify with Him enough to leave behind my identity as an all-American thoroughly spoiled girl? Can I endure even germs and dirty fingernails? Can I walk into the crowded triage building, among the people who tug on me and chatter the language I cannot understand, and realize that I am one of them?
As one of them, I can wash their dirty, injured feet, just like I wash my own, just like Jesus washed all of ours when He washed His disciples’. I can feel the pain of the woman moaning in the corner and accept His love and their love as freely as I give it.
As one of them, I gain so much hospitality and friendship, and I find a people warm and generous. I can enjoy their food, rice and fish pulled from the bones, and think how delicious it is as I eat it with my fingers. I can revel in the ride to work in an open CNG, the wind blowing in my face as we drive past fields of rice.
Through God’s grace I can find contentment in whatever state I am in. And in this case, I can find contentment in whatever country I am in, since I am not in any of the 50 states. And here in Bangladesh, I am content. 🙂