An Unlikely Dead Head

I became a Dead Head while working in Pakistan with displaced people at age 51. It was an unlikely love story.

I had embarked on the journey a week before, armed with medical supplies and a head trying to remember all my past nursing skills when in crisis clinical situations. I was in Pakistan, my childhood home, working in flood relief after millions of people had been moved into refugee camps because of losing their homes to the rising waters. I had not been sleeping well and woke up early on the one day off I would have in a two week period. I  was desperate for some relief. To make it worse, I kept on telling myself that it wasn’t that hard, that the patients we were seeing had a far more difficult time than me, and that I was a big baby. None of these were helpful in the current situation.

I went into the living room of the small apartment that served as our home during the two weeks. Sleepily I grabbed my iPod, dropped my tired body onto a chair, and scrolled through the play list, hoping to soothe my soul with worship music. I stopped scrolling after a short time, furious. None of my music was there! Instead I had my choice of 1,200 songs from Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The White Stripes, Aerosmith, The Velvet Underground and lesser known bands that I had never listened to. In an instant I remembered that just before leaving Boston my 15-year-old son had told me he would charge my ipod before the trip. As he returned it, he had a smile on his face that I didn’t catch. I was too busy gathering passport, ticket and malaria medication. He had decided to give me a taste of his music on the journey, knowing that I would be unable to do anything about it.

There I was, eight thousand miles from the United States, bone-tired and I wanted to strangle my youngest child. In my frustration I happened to hit play on one of the songs from the Grateful Dead. As I listened to Jerry Garcia‘s folksy voice, the words from a song moved in a melodic moment  from iPod to soul.  “Reach out your hand, if your cup be empty. If your cup is full may it be again.” I began to cry. The sorrow and pain that had been a part of the journey as we daily tried to meet the needs of people in crisis came in a wave.

In what could only be described as a holy moment, the words and music worked their magic. God was present reaching out to fill my cup so I could move forward, meeting me in an unlikely way in the midst of exhaustion and inability.

On that day, in that time I knew two things. One – that I was an unlikely Dead Head, and two – that God’s creative ability to meet us through unlikely venues knows no bounds. Jerry Garcia will forever hold a holy place in my heart.

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone


Don’t Forget the Flood

The readership of this blog was initially built through those who cared deeply about Pakistan, her people, her land, her resources and her future. Because of that, I will continue to beat the point home on the help needed of any variety, be it prayer, finances and on site work. I am hopeful that I will be able to go again in the next 6 months.

The Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report published this information last Friday on their weekly summary:

Two million Pakistanis have become ill from malaria, diarrhea, skin diseases or snake bites “since monsoon rains left the southern region under several feet of water, the country’s disaster authority said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “More than 350 people have been killed and over eight million people have been affected this year by floods that officials say are worse in parts of Sindh province than last year,” the news agency reports.

According to the WHO, a lack of access to clean drinking water has set off some disease outbreaks, AFP notes (9/22). “Officials have also expressed fears … that the problems affecting the southern province are only getting more acute,” BBC News writes. The U.N. last week launched an appeal for $365 million to help aid those in Sindh and Balochistan provinces affected by the flooding, the news agency notes (9/22).

The Boston Globe captured, in pictures, the human need around the world as a result of too much water. They rightly point out that water, so essential to life worldwide, has caused misery and tragedy in many places of the world in recent months. Take a look at what the Globe has captured in “Too Much of a Basic Need

There are no words for what you will see and feel. I don’t bring this up on a Friday to depress, but I do bring it up to remind myself, and others, to do what we can to help.

Blogger’s Note: My wonderful partner in friendship and health care, Carol Brown, has a busy few months ahead as she and her husband prepare to go to Oxford and begin the Institute for the Study of Religion in the Middle East. My hope is that as I give her a shout-out in this blog (read: shame her publicly), she will realize she can squeeze in a trip for flood relief with me (even as she marries off a daughter, sells a home of many years, and prepares for a totally new life – not too much to ask, is that wrong of me?)