Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving – a favorite holiday for many. I know that there is a history behind Thanksgiving that is sobering, that the day we remember in 1621 was not representative of the traumatic relationship between indigenous people and pilgrims. But I am grateful for a day that is, in my circles, celebrated with grateful hearts, homes that welcome the stranger, and tables that reflect good gifts.
There is a lot to be troubled at in our world. From horror in the mountains of Iraq to desperation and anger in a city in Missouri, our world is fraught with sadness, injustice, disparities, and fear. In all this it is easy to lose hope, easy to drown in anger, apathy, or despair. So for Thanksgiving this year I have a story on acne medicine and hope. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you – Thank you for being this beautiful part of my life, thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, and loving the world with me. Thank you above all for being people that want to communicate across the boundaries that divide us.
She sat across from me, a beautiful teenager in a dark green short-sleeved shirt, long sleeves underneath to provide warmth through layers. We had an instant connection when we met the day before. She was 17 years old and lovely.
It was in the late afternoon when she came to the makeshift clinic we had set up. She sat down. “How can I help?” I said to her.
She pointed to her face. Until then I hadn’t noticed but she had acne on both sides of her face, not severe but she was a teen and this was her face, not mine.
“You are so beautiful” I said holding her hands. We laughed together as I talked to her about washing her face, first washing her hands to get rid of dirt and germs. Then washing with warm water, gently bathing her face, finishing off with cold water to close the pores. I talked to her about not touching her pimples, about trying to keep her hands away from her face. As I spoke with her I thought “Here is a holy moment. A moment that God cares about.”
It could have happened with any teenager, anywhere in the world. But the thing that made it significant is that this was in a refugee camp. This was a teenager who had lost everything that was familiar – her home, her school, her routine, even some family members had been lost. Stress manifests itself in many ways and one of them is through the skin — through rashes, itching, and acne. A six to eight day walk through the mountains to get to safety didn’t help. Who has water for washing when you need every drop to keep hydrated?
That she wanted help with her face was an amazing picture of hope. Help me with my face, help me deal with what is a struggle today, help me to look better.
Hope was so present in her voice and face. She was the first of many to come to see us about her face – perhaps her courage gave hope to other teens, teens who had also lost everything.
It seems so small – giving out acne advice and medicine. But in the upside down kingdom of God even this can be used, even acne medicine can bring hope.