It was my first visit to a CURE hospital, and I thought I had an idea of what would happen at the clubfoot clinic we were scheduled to document on our first day in the Dominican Republic: kids would come in, doctors would perform treatments, staff would be helpful, families would leave happy. But the actual experience was much different than my original assumption.
From behind the lens of my camera, I saw lives being changed. The changes weren’t limited to little legs being shaped by corrective casts; life-change was also present in the palpable relief of every family member with every child. From the moment strips of plaster were applied, so too, was hope. Hope had found them and was actively changing the future of their family.
This process, from shallow idea to rich experience, was repeated time and time again throughout the week. Never was this more true than on the final day of the trip in an interview with a mom named Kenia and her one-year-old son, Isai, who was born with clubfoot and had surgery at CURE Dominicana.
When our interview began, the first thing we were told was that Kenia was very self-conscious and didn’t like to have her picture taken. That’s not abnormal; many people don’t like to have their picture taken. But it was different for Kenia.
Through tears, she explained: “I do not like to talk about this, but the day [the Spiritual Ministry team] came to my home – and you have done this this three times now – you always bring me groceries. I hate talking about this. But we have days that we do not eat. And every time that you have come and have blessed me with food is the time when we are the most hungry and it has been days without us eating. People would see me and think that I am fat and that I have money and that I’m eating a lot. But as a matter of fact, it’s that I’m not eating, and I just don’t say anything.”
I sat on a park bench with Elba, our Spiritual Director at CURE Dominicana, and Kenia, and we listened to her story. Tears streamed down our faces as we understood the complex conflict that existed in her situation. Kenia’s reality was much different than the idea most people had about her, and it was clear how damaging that incorrect perception was to her own sense of self-worth.
Kenia endures the looks, comments, and “advice” that come with being on the wrong end of a false assumption. Our kids often deal with that, too. Cultural beliefs tend to mark disabilities as a curse and the disabled as bewitched. But the reality is disabled kids are just kids who are hurting and need spiritual, emotional, and physical healing. Isai received that healing at CURE Dominicana, and as she remarked during our interview, so did Kenia and her family:
“Just a simple thank you is not enough. I cannot tell you all the things that you have done, all the things that you have changed, how you have transformed my life and my family’s life.”
For Kenia and for me, it became apparent that what we experience trumps what we perceive – whether that experience looks like the tangible love of Jesus in bags of groceries and a listening ear or the humble realization that our assumptions were wrong.