Late Friday afternoon there was a knock on the door… I opened the door and a young man asked to come in. I did not recognize him, but invited him in. My house is on campus; I assumed that he was either a worker or a student.
He began to tell me that he had been in an accident a few months ago and he was feeling a lot of pain and he wanted to go to the hospital. I asked, “Are you a student?” “Yes,” he responded.
I proceeded to explain to him that he needed to talk to the Dean of Students about the situation. The only problem, the Dean of Students was gone until Monday. He said he had already talked to someone at the office and was told that the University does not provide money for students to go to the hospital. This is true; the students have to sign a document, which states if there are hospital expenses they have to cover their own medical needs. For so many students, their signatures on this document is mere formality, because all the money that they had was used to help pay for their tuition.
I asked, “Well how can I help you?” I finally figured out that he was asking me for money so that he could go to the hospital. I told him that I didn’t even know who he was, nor could I verify his identity until the Dean of Students returned and I was unwilling to give him money. I offered him ibuprofen to help with his discomfort and told him how to take it.
All weekend I thought about this young man and wondered if I should have done more. Was he really that ill? What if something serious happens to him? Was he telling me the truth? Why did he come to me instead of someone else, was it because I am American and therefore I must be rich? Was it because I was a woman and he thought I would have more compassion for him than my male counterparts? Or, was he just desperate and trying to seek help anyway he could get it. I kept thinking that all I did was give him ibuprofen, pat him on the back, and use the wonderful euphemism, “I will pray for you.”
This is one of my biggest struggles coming to Liberia, how much should I help. I learned early on that we Americans love to jump in and help, but often the way we give causes more problems than help. As a Christian, I believe it is my obligation to reach out and help others. But when I give to others with out knowledge about a situation am I really helping or merely enabling? When should I say yes and when should I say no?
The same day that the young man came to my door another young man was hurt on campus playing volleyball and had a deep cut on his leg. He tried to take care of it himself by soaking it in salt water and wrapping his leg, but it continued to bleed. He had no money to go to the hospital. One of the older students told him that he needed to go anyway and actually took him there on a motorbike. The young man needed several stitches and 3 different shots. It cost $10.00. We think, “Wow that was cheap.” They think, “Where will I ever get $10.00 to pay the bill.” He was one of the blessed ones, because someone else paid the bill for him.
Back to the First Young Man
Back to the first young man who knocked on my door; Monday morning he was waiting to see the Dean of Students. One of our other faculty members, who also is an American, has a car here and took him to the hospital and paid for his care. I was relieved, but still felt guilty about not helping more. At our faculty meeting, I raised the issue about coming up with a solution to help these students during medical emergencies? There is no easy solution.
Meanwhile, Wednesday, the same young man fainted in pain and this time there was no choice but to take him to the hospital. He was in the hospital for two days and needed medication. It was going to cost him $60.00. Someone might as well have told him that it was going to cost $6,000.00, because where would he ever get $60.00 and his family lived far away. Even if they had been close, they would not have had that kind of money. No money to pay meant that the hospital would not give him the medication he needed. This time there was no hesitation on my part, and I worked with the Dean of Students to make sure that the young man was able to get his medicines.
But what about the next student who comes to my office or knocks on my door in desperate straits? What does a woman do in this fallen world? Who do I help? There are so many needs? I wish I knew – do you have the answer?
I just found out today that the young man has decided to go home. The question floats through my mind, what if I had helped him that Friday night? Would he have felt different about staying at ABCU? Perhaps not, because there is more to the story (I will save that for another post), but I probably will never know.
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK! Someone’s at my door…now what will I do?