Every year brings new and different challenges…Mark takes a lighter look at one of his.
In December of last year, it became evident that the hospital had a problem. Upon daily checking of the storage rooms we found shelves of medicine decimated, bandages of many kinds shredded, and multiple things knocked to the floor. Yes, you guessed it: the rats were among us. Haitian rats are known for their tenacity and toughness, so we knew we had a battle on our hands. Before I left for the US to spend Christmas with the family, I asked several members of the hospital staff to buy rat traps, poison, flamethrowers, hand grenades, or whatever it took to get rid of the destructive four-legged chewing machines attacking the hospital supplies. They gave me their assurance and took the oath generally reserved for soldiers heading to the front lines. I left the war in their capable hands and left to celebrate the holidays.
I returned to our Haiti-home after a wonderful time with family, even though it had a COVID chaser. My first day back to the hospital, I donned my rat-proof military apparel, preparing to enter the war with my allies. But to my surprise they said the war was over, with zero staff fatalities. Thankfully, like a commander after the victory, I unlocked my office, slumped in my chair and beamed that the war was over. I opened the drawer where I kept many of my supplies, and then it happened: a rat that had escaped the skirmish had decided to camp out in my drawer. He jumped out, landed awkwardly on the floor, and scurried behind the bookcase. As for me, I jumped out away from the drawer, landed awkwardly on the floor, and scurried on the other side of my desk. If last week you heard a strange squeal in the air, no matter where you live- that was me. The war was back on.
As I had time to take a closer look in my office, I discovered that covers had been eaten from books, a couple of pairs of scrubs had new venting, and many documents had been shredded more effectively than a top-of-the-line professional electric shredder could have done. Not desiring to resort to hand grenades and flame throwers, I decided to use rat traps and poison. I left the office for the day, leaving a set trap and enough poison to wipe out more rats than the Pied Piper could have collected. I was confident that this war was nearly finished.
The next day, I cautiously entered the office, finding a neat little pile of shredded paper, an empty rat trap, and little “rat raisins” on the top of my desk. Now he was taunting me. Before I left for the day, Jean, as I named my 4-legged office mate, was gifted even more poison and a bigger smear of stuff on the trap.
For the next 3 days, Jean enjoyed the snacks that I left on his little wooden tray that snapped, and seemed to be playing soccer with the poison pellets. He was feeling that this was truly a great symbiotic relationship.
Day 4, entering the office with my bazooka and camo, I found that Jean had met his demise. He had been a worthy opponent, and before he was given a decent burial in the incinerator, I slowly bent over his body, and reflected on our battle. I hope his tenacity and competitive nature rubs off on me, as I face another year, with its challenges. RIP Jean. Please don’t send your family to our hospital.
It was amazing to me how much of my thoughts and effort were actually spent on The War of Jean, as it will be remembered in history. Outside of my office door, there were people fighting real fights: illness, hunger, and pain, but I became sidetracked with this small skirmish. I left my office after Jean’s demise and was greeted by a mom whom I had known for a while because her now 2-year-old daughter had been a recurring patient with us for quite some time. The mom gave me a smile as did her little one. My thoughts of Jean were quickly out of my head, and the important things of life returned. To quote the noted theologian, Winnie the Pooh:
“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart”.
May your smallest things this year, give you great joy, peace, and hope that only Christ can give.