Job done, we walked back towards our home because I had been informed that it was time to draw the map.
An old man soon overtook us on the walking path, our small steps quickly passed by his long and surprisingly brisk stride. He pointed to my son and smiled at me over his shoulder, only slowing a bit.
"Do you know how many of those I delivered?"
"How many?" Was he speaking about kids, oatmeal boxes, or treasures untold?
"I stopped counting at 5,000 babies," he announced, his sneakers firmly planted and no longer moving forward as he spoke.
"I stopped counting at 2. I think I have three or so," I quipped. He didn't laugh, but he did move back towards us.
"I was the only baby doctor between Boise and Salt Lake City..." Somehow, this old man in sweat pants and a golf invitational t-shirt couldn't come back from the past. After regaling me with stories of women delivering twins and breach babies, he meandered like the Little Man on a hike, wandering to topics like malpractice insurance and educational standards and Halloween candy.
When my son's whine to go home and get a drink shook the doctor from his nostalgia, he waved good bye and sped away, his white sneakers squeaking on the black asphalt as he picked up the pace.
I wondered about that number later on. 5,000. That's all I seemed to remember out of our conversation. A number. And I felt bad that the old man wasn't memorable for just being himself, that it was his work that stuck with me.
Then, I wondered about that whole Dr. 5,000 thing. How do you deliver that many babies and still feel the marvel of each baby? Each forming life? Surely there were days when the work was drudgery, not awe. When mothers came for checkups and nausea complaints and it all just blurred together, and Dr. 5,000 just wanted to get home to barbecue or watch Sportscenter. Did the reverence of new life give way to monotony somewhere around 3,200? It's the thought I have had with every prenatal exam. It's not because they make me feel irrelevant. If anything, they always try to assure me how relevant I am. But sheesh, really? After delivering that first 1,000 babies, doesn't it all blur together? (It's obvious to you all why I am too jaded to be a medical professional.)
Before I could get too judgmental towards Dr. 5,000, I looked at my own little life. As I lug the baby and diaper bag and purse and siblings with lollipops out of the office, might those medical professionals wonder how I survive another day of monotony, so glad he or she doesn't have to understand my drudgery as he or she goes about another exciting day in the office?
And I wonder if the only thing that keeps it all from becoming a blur is the unique moments, in and of themselves. The treasure walk, the stranger on the path, the child right here in front of me. When there is a face to it all, suddenly it is so much more than a number. I'm not sure which number our children were in the long line of baby deliveries our ob/gyn had racked up, but we sent them a baby announcement for each of our children. Because they were ours, and that was something to shout about!
Perhaps because it's the individuals that make the day-in-day-out life suddenly pop with...well...with life.
Other numbers are resonating in my head today - it's the curse of loving numbers mixed with a little obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Thirteen stairs to the bonus room. Four fingers tapping seems so much better than when you try to throw the thumb in there to make five.
In the overwhelming fight against poverty, numbers like 27 million (the number of people living as modern-day slaves) or 26% (the percentage of people worldwide that live in extreme poverty - this is an improvement from 52% only 30 years ago). These numbers don't really make sense to me. If I'm supposed to be encouraged that only 21,000 children die each day from preventable causes instead of 40,000 (the rate in the 1980s), it's still such an unfathomable number.
Until you put a face to it.
Suddenly, you can never lose count, even after 5,000...because they have faces and stories. Life beckons with something more than a number.
Number 15 is Benard, and he is our family's newest member.
So, he's no longer just Number 15. He's ours. My kids talk about him like he's a brother living in another state, they pray for him at night, we write to him when we know he can receive an email.
He tells us to be careful of the bears in Nevada!
An orphan living in the Mitumba slums of Nairobi, there was no hope for this sixteen-year old. With good school records but no funds or family, Benard was certainly facing insurmountable odds.
Odds - those funny things. Another math term I love, or hate, depending on the context.
In this case, though, odds could not predict what would happen to Benard. God Himself intervened and Benard is now in a boarding school, all food, books, and other necessities supplied. There is a tidy amount of money available if he should have a medical emergency. There is a bi-annual summer camp held where Benard sees friends in the program, and sees life outside of the congested city. Perhaps best of all, Benard will soon have legal guardians, the closest thing to parents he has had in a long time. And not just any legal guardians. These two.
Andrew and Stephanie.
While Compassion International must draw the line somewhere and stops sponsorship of children after the eighth grade in Kenya, Bridge Ministries now comes alongside and sponsors these older at-risk and orphan kids who would otherwise be left behind.
For many years, we have watched Andrew and Stephanie prepare for their God-given mission to these young people. And we have prayed as Bridge Ministries came alongside to support them.
But I have felt a bit powerless. I'm a stay-at-home mom. My income for the year - $0. When your heart is so moved by something, and you have very little power to help, sometimes you almost wish you didn't even know about it.
However, this year might be a little different. Finally, I think there might be something I can do. And maybe you can too!
My family has a secret toffee recipe that we love to stir up at Christmastime. This year, we are selling it, and all of our profits will be going to OneLifeAfrica. Hooray! For every 70 pounds of toffee that we sell, one more student will get food, education, school supplies, mentoring, even summer camp.
If you are local and would like to help, you don't have to have a large bank account to be a part of this. The goal is not to just make money for these kids, but to spread the message.
- Come pack toffee on October 29th or November 5th (email me for location and confirmation).
- Come out and buy some toffee at the Minden Gazebo Lighting and Santa Parade (Dec. 2-3). Or the Douglas High School Craft Fair (Dec. 3, 9-3). We are selling Hallelujah Toffee in 1-pound and 1/2-pound sizes. Check out hallelujahtoffee.org for more information.
- Throw a Christmas party and offer toffee samples. Tell the story of what we are doing. And if anyone wants to be a part of it, they can throw their own Christmas party or purchase some online.
- Pray for these students. Their names and stories are listed at OneLifeAfrica.
Join us if you would like.
We love because He first loved us. Such freedom here.
Resting in Him,