Building Callouses

It gets easier. It has to get easier. Everyone else tells her it does. It has only been two months, she has to remember that, but Stephanie cannot see any improvement. Maybe she is being impatient. Maybe she should be, when their idea of improvement is not caring so much anymore. At least, that’s the way she sees it.

She is young, she knows, but not naive. When she took the job as nurse in an inner city school in an undeveloped country, she knew she would see things that would upset her. She sees the malnutrition, the abuse, bruises from angry parents, and split lips inflicted on each other. The addiction though, that she was not ready for. Nor was she ready to see STD’s in 12-year-old girls. So very many children scarred so early.

Every night she goes to bed crying. She feels like she has made a terrible mistake but cannot go back. At least once a day she wants to yell at the teachers and other aids for being so calloused. They go through the motions, doing what they can. It is clear they care, they are so gentle and kind to these kids, but their lack of outrage outrages her.

How can it possibly get easier? How can anyone get used to this? Every day is a tour through some new hell. Each child a reminder that the world is a cruel place. Stephanie came here because of her faith, and each night, she puts out the lights feeling like she has lost a little more of it. She has no way of knowing how to make any sense of it: what has happened here, what their efforts gain.

Little by little her French improves, and she gets to know these kids better. At first this makes it harder. She falls in love with them, but Stephanie knows she cannot rescue them all, if she can rescue any of them. Then she meets the parents, and grandparents, those who know what real horror looks like, those that remember the bombs and the guns. She sees that they have walked a harder road than she could ever imagine.

Maybe they cannot make a difference. Stephanie does is still not certain. She does not know if she can develop those callouses, but slowly realizes, they are worth it.

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