“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” St. Augustine
She was one in a mass several hundred children that turned up for Bible school. I noticed her, in fact, I hugged her, patted her head and talked to her, but I didn’t really stop to see her. Sometimes the needs and want in the communities I engage in become a haze. It becomes easy to shade my eyes, and narrow my focus in order not to become completely lost in the desperation.
My sister did see little Diane, really stopped to see her. As the little girl sat on her lap and clung to her during Bible club, my sister pondered her need, saw her “misery and want,” heard her sorrow, and reacted with compassion.
“I wish there was some way to help her,” Julie told me.
“Sure,” I replied; “but I just don’t think it’s feasible. There is too much effort and follow-up involved, and chances are it could all be of no use.” I listed off many reasons, including village setting with lack of proper hygiene and little understanding of the ongoing treatment necessitated, a parent who may not be able to maintain care, and the possibility that after much time, money and effort, it may be to no avail.
Vivacious, spirited and feisty, 4-year-old Diane had a severe strabismus of her eyes. Some may refer to her as “cross-eyed.” In her case, Diane’s eyes were severely out of alignment, causing this irregularity to be the most poignant thing one noticed about her at first glance. Having had some experience with this condition in other children prior, I knew that often years of eye patches, glasses, drops, repeated trips to doctors, and possible surgeries often ensued, yet sometimes bearing little improvement. It seemed like too much of a mess to get involved with. I chose to catalog her need as one of the millions of things I cannot change.
My sister didn’t say anything more about it, but that Sunday Diane spotted Julie in church and jumped up into her lap where she clung tightly to her. I snapped a photo of the two of them, and Julie kept that photo with her, still seeing Diane’s whole being with compassion.
A few weeks later, I moved to a new neighborhood. Much to my pleasant surprise, Diane lives in my locality. She spotted me one day and came running fiercely, barreling into me full-force with a strong hug.
I later mentioned to Julie that I had again seen Diane. Again Julie wished there was something that could be done. I agreed to meet with Diane’s mom and offer to take Diane for an initial appointment only, just to see if there was any possibility of helping her. Diane’s mother agreed and soon we were visiting doctors, receiving positive news and scheduling Diane’s surgery to correct her vision and appearance.
Diane is fortunate in that in her type of strabismus both of her eyes still see, they simply alternate which eye does the looking. Because both eyes were active, there was no need for years of patches and corrective lenses, but a corrective surgery could be scheduled at any time.
Three months ago, Diane had her surgery and has recovered remarkably well. Doctors state that as she continues to mature, her eyes will fully correct by adulthood.
Diane comes to visit me several times a week. The first thing she always wants is to see Julie, meaning via Skype or simply reviewing all of her Facebook videos and pictures. Every time I see Diane, I am reminded what a difference love can make. When we take the time to stop and truly see the people, the human souls around us and choose compassion, lives are changed. When I see Diane, I see how much confidence she has gained, how loved she feels. How proud she is to have a friend far away who sees her and loves her. Diane recently told me, “Julie loves me. You love me. My mom loves me. Everybody loves me!” This is not the voice of the same little girl, scorned and ridiculed and turned away from by peers and adults alike. This is a little girl who has felt and known love and it has changed her world.
Lord, give us eyes to see and the compassion to make a difference in Jesus’ name.
He that has a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he gives of his bread to the poor. Proverbs 22:9
***Diane’s mom confided to me that since Diane’s infancy, it has been her prayer that God could heal her daughter’s eyes, though she never even had the money to take her to a doctor. One person’s choice to see the needs of another became an answered prayer from a mother’s heart. ***