• By Jeni Ann Flores

Trusting the wisdom of the body through shards of broken glass

Dr. Paul Brand is an acclaimed hand surgeon, a pioneer in developing techniques of tendon transfer. His technique was pivotal in the surgery of leprosy patients’ hands. He was a medical missionary to India and coauthor of “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” (with Philip Yancey) and many other books,

In an interview, Dr. Brand said seeing pictures of the bombing of Baghdad brought him back to the bombing raids of London in World War II. The real surgeons, he said, treated the big injuries while junior surgeons like him picked fragments of glass out of people who happened to be standing near windows when the bombs fell near them.

He especially remembered a janitor who was standing next to a stained-glass window when a bomb fell. After the bigger pieces of glass were removed, the patient returned several times because little lumps kept appearing under his skin, tiny slivers of glass they missed during surgery. Dr Brand and his colleagues would cut those slivers loose but the patient came back again after a few weeks.

“I gained a real respect for the millions of little cells that worked like surgeons to get rid of every last fragment of harmful material from his body. They worked more efficiently than we had, because they found bits we had missed. They made a pathway and pushed them out and healed the little wounds they left behind. That was when I really began to realize what has amazed me more and more for fifty years - the wisdom of the body.”

The world as a body is also assaulted by the Covid-19 explosion.

The most damaging effect of Covid-19 to our communities is the tragedy of lives lost. As someone who has experienced multiple losses myself, I can relate to the long-term effects of grief. There are also physical effects of Covid-19 that continue on even after recovery. There is reported damage to lungs, hearts, even brains. Emotional, social, cognitive and economic effects may linger. The world may soon find a vaccine but the recovery will not be immediate.

Scientists and world governments are presumably working on taking out the big parts. Some more successfully than others. But what about the small glass that wounds many among us.

In a body that is well, the body’s defenses come to the aid of the wounded parts. We have heard of many stories of heroism during this pandemic — people going the extra 10 miles for their fellow men and women. At the beginning of the lockdown, there were stories of teenagers buying groceries for the elderly. People volunteered to sew masks for frontliners. Businesses donated masks, PPEs and food. Teachers went door to door, checking on students and delivering care packages. Those who could sing shared their songs. Those who could make us laugh made us laugh. Even if it was through plexiglass or digital screen, many reached out and touched someone.

But we were just picking up the pieces after the initial explosion. The spray of broken glass continues. As a world body, we are just beginning to understand the ravages of this pandemic. Like a body sensing the assault of a shard of glass on our soft flesh, the brain is registering the pain. It needs to continue to send defensive forces. Only then will the healing will continue.

What will it take for our communities and families to accelerate the healing? It will take all of us making a decision to give up of our own reserves and help the most vulnerable among us. For example, what if those of us who can afford to eat out give generous tips? What if landlord reduce rent for a brief spell? What if we give gifts of cash to those who have lost jobs or had their hours reduced? What if we pay for the meal of the family behind us in the drive-thru window? Or the groceries of an elderly person in the checkout counter? What if we offer to babysit or tutor the child of a harried parent who can use a break?

What if we give up one of our devices to a family doing online learning with multiple children sharing one device? What if we help an elderly person navigate online banking or zoom, etc. to get in touch with family? What if we give up a vehicle we are not using for a family who needs an extra one so they can go to work? What if we pay for internet service for a struggling family so their children can learn at home? What if find work for neighbor’s teenager to do in our yard just so he or she can earn some cash for the family?

The only way our world will survive the pandemic is to act as a body, and trust the wisdom of the body. We have much to learn from the women of the French Revolution and the women of the Holocaust.

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Sybil Milton, director of archives at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, an organization that preserves material on German-speaking Jews, said, ''Women were better able to survive starvation than men. They had better strategies for sharing and extending food.’’

Those who had, no matter how little, pooled their meager items and gave them to the most vulnerable. As a result, they were fed by the milk of their own kindness and assured their own survival.

Our world is so interconnected. In a global economy, we sink and swim together. We really are our neighbor’s keeper. We are commanded by the Lord to share each others’ burden. Their pain and their burden is ours because we belong to the same body. When we bind somebody else’s wounds, we heal our own body.

Such heaps of broken glass everywhere, you’d think the dome of heaven had fallen, Robert Frost once wrote. Yes, maybe heaven has come down. Not to harm or hurt, but so that we may, if we choose, pick up the pieces of heaven’s dome glass, put them in a tube, point it toward the light, and watch a kaleidoscope of colors appear.

Jeni Ann Flores is an educator, blogger, and freelance writer. You may read more of her writing at https://teacherseditionflores.blogspot.com/. You may reach her at teachersedition.flores@gmail.com

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