Friday, August 3, 2007

platted hair (braids)

On Monday one of my patients was a fifteen year old girl. She was shot several times during the war. We were going to remove the bullet that was still lodged in her left thigh as well as clean up several other scars.

Being a patient in the hospital can be a little boring. I thought she might find braiding my hair amusing. So I retrieved a comb and rubber bands from my room.

When I returned she got shy. She didn't want to braid my hair. Which was fine. I didn't care about the braids, I just thought it might be nice for her.

But before I could put away my comb, James mom spoke up.

"I want to plat (braid) your hair."

I really like James mother. She was my age and a little sassy in the best kind of way. If we were in school together I am pretty certain we would have been friends. Maybe even kindred spirits.

So she platted my hair. Carefully she divided my hair into neatly segmented squares.

People have been asking me how long the process took but I am honestly not sure. We would start and stop and then start again. After about 25 minutes of platting I generally had some nursing duty to perform. I went to dinner with my hair half-platted. Good thing I don't really care about looking silly.

But at the end of the night my head was transformed into a Medusa-like collection of braids. And it was a hit.

"Your hair looks fine," was the general consensus of the Liberian mothers and translators in the ward. My friend even got hers done the next day. She told me she felt a little guilty having it done while she was working.

I didn't.

It really wasn't about the braids. I would have been fine with my normal afro-bedhead look. It was about friendship. validation. About giving someone the opportunity to do something for you. About letting James mom have something to give me. It made our relationship mutualistic.

It's funny how a very small gesture can mean alot to someone. The next day I wore my African skirt to match my African hair. Three of the translators sat with me at lunch. They had never done that before.

How to reach someone is not something you can find in a textbook. It's something you find in your daily life. We are surrounded by opportunities to validate a person's worth.

Maybe it's a kind word. Maybe it's laughing at a joke. Maybe it's listening to what someone has to say.

Maybe it's having your hair platted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love you Meg, and I miss you!
Love, Mom