As if the room wasn’t hot enough, even though her skin was scalding. When I first touched it, I jerked my hand away suddenly – my nerve endings responding as if I could be burned. I had never met this girl before, never taught her a sign. I didn’t even know if she needed to be taught sign – all I knew was she was scalding in a room that was burning up.
The “grandma” (as she calls herself), a retired nurse, asked me to grab a cloth and get it wet. Because this is India, I grabbed a onesie lying on the bed nearby and washed it in the sink. Since it was the heat of the day, the tap water was hot. I ran the onesie out onto the veranda and swung it back and forth till it was cool. The reflection of the sun on the stairs was nearly blinding and the cows rifling through the trash beside the street below moved slowly. Once the cloth was cool, I brought it to Grandma and she placed it over the child’s stomach and chest so it would touch under the arms and inside the thighs because “that’s where the lymph are located” and “if you cool the lymph, the lymph, you cool the blood.”
So, I keep the child’s lymph cool, and I rub her hands in a reflexology technique that stimulates the lymphatic system (something I learned long before I came to India.) And, though I do not even think of teaching her the word for “hot” or “pain” in this moment, I still feel as if all the moments in my life led up to this – the simple act of reviving a child.
I pray over her. I lift the onesie and swing it over her – fanning her and cooling the cloth simultaneously. Lay it on her chest and lymph. Then swing it over her again. I repeat the process countless times in the stifling heat. Soon, she’s less hot, soon she’s revived enough to smile when I fan her and purr when I lay the cool cloth over her body. After a while, she even laughs.
India has taught me, in a real and kinetic way, that tasks are much less important than people. That people helping others as a group, accomplish so much more than they ever could alone. That the world can only really change when we are willing to set aside our own agendas when there is something more important. That, as Jesus said, it’s not vain sacrifices but real love that sums up all we were created to live out day by day.
I touched the little girl’s arm and my hand did not yank back. She smiled.