Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Writer's Challenge (NOT the FaithWriters Challenge) (06/10/10)
TITLE: Keep It Simple Stupid
By Sharon Kane
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But find her he did, and the credit was due entirely to Lorna's mother. It was she who had turned the pages of picture books for her baby in the cradle; she who had helped her toddler master 'Winnie-the-Pooh's ABC' while sitting her on the potty; and she who opened the door to The Cat. Later she proudly introduced Lorna to the flustered kindergarten teacher with, "This is my Lorna. She can already read and write, you know!"
Once grown up and free from her mother's apron strings, Lorna generally introduced herself as "An infectious diseases physician," During her interview with Doctors for the Great Commission she extended it somewhat. "I'm an infectious diseases physician who has heard God's call to the DRC and is ready to follow."
It no more crossed her mind to call herself a writer than a breather. Memory verse cards pinned on her bedroom wall, French verbs stuck on the toilet door, 'Fifty Causes of Fever and Rash' mounted in font size 18 in front of her running machine: written words surrounded her like the very air. She never gave them a second thought. Until she landed on the airstrip at Kisangani on the Congo River.
Her laptop hard drive fairly buzzed with colourful power-point presentations and detailed hand-outs about AIDS, malaria, schistosomiasis, African trypanosomiasis and other equally unpronounceable and miserably debilitating diseases. This was Lorna's arsenal in her war against the killers of the Congolese.
The hospital matron, Miséricorde, watched in silence as Lorna showed her the immaculately prepared materials.
"They're no good here. People won't understand them."
"But, they're in French. I spent so much time translating them, surely you're not saying...?"
"I know they're French. But not many speak French. Almost no one reads it. Because of the war. Schools were closed, teachers killed. People went back to bush living. We got to start at the beginning."
"Well, let's just see how it goes shall we?" Lorna snapped her laptop closed, offered the matron a clammy handshake and abruptly left the room. Probably she's jealous because she doesn't have the resources to prepare such quality stuff. I'll invite her for coffee tomorrow and it'll all be fine.
The following morning Lorna addressed the patients crowded into the hospital waiting room.
"I'm Dr. Lorna, from Canada. I've come to help you have the healthy lives that Jesus wants you to enjoy." Miséricorde translated her almost flawless French into the strange Lingala tongue.
"Before I open my consulting room, I want to talk about a disease that affects many people in Africa." Lorna flipped open her laptop, placed it on a table and passed the photocopied hand-outs among the patients. "My entire talk is written on these papers which you can take home, so don't worry if you don't remember everything right now." She smiled broadly and turned back to the computer screen. "This disease is called schistosomiasis. It's caused by a tiny worm-like creature spread by water snails. The worm gets into your skin when you wade or bathe in–"
Her smile died.
"Water, doctor." prompted Miséricorde. "You wanted to say, When you bathe in the water."
A pause, then a very quiet, "You're right."
Miséricorde waited for the doctor to continue. Nothing came.
"You're right," repeated Lorna. "They can't read. The floor's littered with the papers, and half the people who are still holding them have got them upside down. I didn't know..."
Miséricorde wordlessly turned off the computer. The people's faces came alive as she regaled them with stories from her childhood; when she mimed peeing blood everyone roared with laughter.
A long morning later Lorna closed the consulting room door behind the last patient. She turned to Miséricorde. "Okay, I'm lost! However do you teach people who can't read and write?"
"Like I said, we got to start at the beginning. Think of a child on mother's knee. No fancy computers there! Keep it simple. Tell stories. Draw pictures. But right now, go to lunch before you collapse."
As Lorna climbed the stairs to her room she pondered her response. Tell stories? Yes, I suppose that's what Jesus did. Draw pictures? I can't draw to save my life! I guess I'll just have to learn.
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