This morning I am worshiping and reading my Bible from my bed, since I have still been vomiting and am unable to go to church. It seemed very appropriate that as I was reading, I noticed that both Old and New Testament talk about praying to give thanks before and even after a meal because meal times were important to the culture of the time, and of course the provision of food was considered to be (as it is) a gift from God, worthy of being appreciated.
This seemed particularly appropriate as I have been reflecting on the differences of being sick here and in the US. There are two big differences I’ve seen, one positive and one negative. First, the positive. When an adult is sick in the US, I feel like (unless they are very very very ill or very elderly) they drive themselves to the doctor, then to the store to get anything they might need, then take care of themselves. Of course, if you have a husband or wife, they might help. But here, everyone helps. A coworker I just met two weeks ago accompanied me to the main road, where another coworker walked from his home and called a friend that I’ve never even met to drive me to the clinic, where a new friend near the clinic let me wait in their home and fed me while the malaria test was being done. Then they drove me home again. I am given meals in bed. Others are now walking to the main road (easily a 30 minute walk) to buy me some juice. This sense of communal responsibility to one another is humbling, though it makes me feel incredibly guilty. I come from a society where sometimes that will happen, but often it will not. Often we are taught to take care of ourselves, and let others take care of themselves, with some exceptions of course. And everyone here who has been taking care of me has said, “oh well maybe I will fall sick tomorrow and will need your help and you will help me.” But it will be a humbling experience to actually do that, when in the US I am normally not obligated to go hours out of my way to help people I recently met. This is a beautiful part of this communal society.
However, one negative aspect of being sick here is that there are just not a lot of things to help. In the US if I am sick, I get my electrolyte-filled gatorade bottles and crackers and fruit and anything my stomach can handle and kinda drink and munch all day long. But this morning I am vomiting bile and stomach acid, because my stomach is empty. It’s morning. It’s not lunch yet, and so food is not cooked. Though normally I try to keep a stash of some extra bananas and things, because yesterday I was sick, I didn’t get to the market to restock. So I am vomiting on an empty stomach, and there is no easy solution for that. There is no refrigerator, no pantry to put something in my stomach to try to settle it. Unless it is 12:30pm or 7:00pm, there will not be food. How would we pay for it? Where would we store it? It’s just not feasible. So now I have sent a good friend to on the thirty minute walk to pick up some juice and crackers for me. And maybe that’s part of why we rely on each other here. Because for better or worse, there is no other choice.