Editor’s note: This week we celebrate a pre-Thanksgiving Week of Gratitude, with Loyola Press authors sharing reflections on gratitude each day.I’m laboriously prepping for a medical procedure. After yet another form asking me for my mailing address, I get a bit grumpy. Why can’t they just look at one of the other 8,000 places I wrote it down?
And then—out of nowhere—I remember the Ireng River. Months ago, my work led me to Karasabai, a remote Jesuit outpost deep in the interior of Guyana, South America. One morning, I accompanied a man suffering with untreated diabetes. His pain had gotten so bad that they sent word to a “nearby” Brazilian hospital across the River Ireng. The hospital said they would send an ambulance to the banks of the river. In the village’s only vehicle, we drove him to the river so that we could paddle him across to the waiting ambulance. But when we arrived, there was no one there. After waiting for over an hour, the group drove the suffering man back home. They would try again later.
Back here in the first world, I am prepping for my procedure which I routinely do because, years ago, doctors found pre-cancerous polyps inside me. Had they not found them, I probably would have died of cancer in my forties.
And so, pass me another medical form and forgive me for my grumpiness. The River Ireng, separating a good man from even basic medical care, reminds me that I’m privileged. The memory humbles me, but also leads me to gratitude.