God sent Autumn

He lived on the beach. He could not speak nor could he control the saliva that constantly drooled from his mouth. He grunted loudly and snorted and he reached out to grab, to touch. He made me so very uncomfortable.

I was assistant professor of nursing at a Christian college. I took students to Central America to learn about another culture, to learn to nurse in another culture, to see how people cared in places where there was not a lot of technology, to live and eat differently for an extended period of time and to serve Jesus out of their comfort zone.

Every year I took a group. Being nursing students, they were principally women. Here is one of the groups I had the privilege of having with me. We were visiting Hortense Robinson, an herbal midwife, who has since passed away, but not before showing my students how to use the plants right around her hut to stop hemorrhage, ease the pain of labor, contract the uterus if the baby needed to get out fast, how to get more milk from the breasts and how to ease a colicky baby to sleep.

We were making our rounds in the villages with traditional and professional nurse midwives and public health nurses in Belize for three weeks. One of those weeks we spent in the seaside Garifuna village of Seine Bight. There my students had to walk through the center of the village to get to the school and clinic where they spent the day and then they had to come back through the center of the village to return to their homes. HE sat right in the middle of the sandy beach upon which the stilt-supported Garifuna homes sat. My students had to pass him every day and he grabbed for them, tried to call to them and it looked like he was spitting and when he smiled big all you could see were his gross yellow teeth against his very dark Garifuna skin.

The first day we all went quickly past him, both ways. The second day I was going to repeat the same maneuver when Autumn, my one student, stooped down, smiled and gave him a treat she had saved from breakfast–just for him. I learned a BIG lesson that day: about caring and personhood and loving and about who really was “the least of these” and about students wise beyond their years. On the way home, all the students stopped and sat around the man and shared with each other about their day so he could hear them. He didn’t make a sound. They were “with” him and I was in the presence of some of the greatest nurses I have ever known.

I got word that Autumn took all her vacation time from the lucrative hospital job she had and went to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 to help with cholera victims. It didn’t surprise me. She had been caring all her life. This is a picture of Autumn with a Haitian nurse. She will always be in the most hurting place, in the most needy place, in the place where her heart can give the most. In Belize, she was right by my side, for I needed.her.most!

Among the least and the greatest,



9 comments on “God sent Autumn

  1. We sit in classrooms, study our way through thick, heavy text books, and we think we know so much
    when we reach the final exams and schooling is over. But your post has confirmed what I’ve come to realize — we learn most from those who live their lives in front of us, those who set examples of Christ likeness and pick up their crosses and follow at any cost, and those who are “the least of these” who first repulse us and then end up drawing us in and changing us as we see life for what it really is.

    This was just so beautiful, Dawn. Beautifully written, but beautiful in all that happened here. There is nothing more precious than to watch and see a young person’s eyes opened to perceive a need and knowing she could do something — one thing — to connect. Her life was changed forever, to say nothing of those who participated with her and those who watched and took in this precious scene.

    Once again, I’m left with the question: What do I hold in MY hand? Did I do anything at all that made a difference in someone’s life today? I feel troubled waters in my soul, that things need to change, comfort zones need to be pushed and crossed. Thank you for this, Dawn. I can’t tell you how this moved me tonight!

  2. you’ve opened wide the tender spot in my heart too Dawn… hoping it stays open for Him who loved us and gave His life for us…
    love this post! Keeping it close! sharing it!

    • Dear Susan,

      Thanks for posting this on Facebook. It is a most important lesson for all of us. Some are much further along than others, but we all need a reminder.

      Bless you,

  3. Ahh…yes, I remember that trip so well. It is still one of the highlights of my education for sure, and maybe even my life!! Thank you for teaching me so much about life in that place.

  4. Dear Andrea and Andrea Dawn,

    I learned more than I ever taught. Isn’t that how it is when you live for the Lord? He is so very gracious AND patient with us.

    Good night,

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