A beloved family member recently had serious, serious surgery. It’s lucky (providential) the doctors caught the problem in time, or it could’ve ended in a sudden, tragic death. I don’t even like to write those words, but that is the reality… And it’s at the forefront of my mind as we near Thanksgiving Day.
As this family member was recovering in the hospital, I said “thank you” to many nurses and doctors. The first night after surgery, while he was still on a ventilator, I told his nurse she made me feel comfortable leaving the hospital knowing he was in such competent, kind hands. My mom and I each gave the nurse a hug when we left late that evening.
In the days that followed, I was at the hospital nearly every day. As we discussed the surgery and the recovery care afterwards, I couldn’t help but mentally compare our experience here in the U.S. with what the rest of the world experiences…or doesn’t experience.
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on behalf of pregnant women living in rural Ugandan and Zambian communities who give birth in, honestly, horrible conditions. The stories they tell and the statistics we’ve pored over are heartbreakingly fresh in my mind: every year a million children die the day they’re born. Around the world, over 800 women die every day in childbirth. It goes on and on.
And then the firsthand stories: women don’t have sterile medical supplies to give birth with in their dirt-floor homes. There are risks of tetanus and HIV. If they’re fortunate enough to make it to a hospital, they’re expected to show up with their own supplies… including gloves. Gloves. I kid you not.
This is what I would think about while spending so much time in the hospital a few weeks ago. When waiting a long time for pain medication or when attention from hospital staff didn’t come quickly, I couldn’t help but think, “Yes, but in Uganda they have to bring their own gloves with them.”
We at least had the blessing and assurance that we would get what was needed, especially if the need was urgent. But not so for hundreds of millions of people: It’s estimated that at least half of people on this planet can’t get the healthcare they need.[i]
These people—at least half of the world’s population—are some of the people I work on behalf of every day. They are those without enough food to eat, without enough money to pay for school uniforms, or enough resources to build a decent home that protects them from cold and rain. They are those without access to adequate healthcare.
As we count down the days to Thanksgiving, I’m pausing to recognize how much better we have it than most of the world. I’m pausing to take a deep breath and thank God that I have a family member who is going to be okay. He just had a follow-up appointment with a doctor today, and though it’s a slow road to recovery, our family has been spared a tragedy.
But how many families that I serve in Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Haiti and Bolivia cannot say the same? There are so many needs, heartaches, and so many “whys”—here and there—am I right? It’s easy to get discouraged, but right now, in this upcoming celebration of gratefulness, I try to refocus and remind myself of the miracle my family has just been blessed with.
What about you?
As we choose to dwell on things we’re grateful for, and as most of us plan to prepare a feast a couple days from now, I encourage you not to forget those who don’t have access to medical care, and don’t ever have enough food to eat. Out of the abundance of what God has given us, let’s remember to be generous givers in return.
As we launch into the holiday season, keep an open ear to something God may whisper to you to do on behalf of those living with so much less.
May your Thanksgiving day be filled with joy, peace, and gratefulness.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (1 Chron. 16:34)
[i] World Bank: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2017/12/13/world-bank-who-half-world-lacks-access-to-essential-health-services-100-million-still-pushed-into-extreme-poverty-because-of-health-expenses