There was once a time when I was very attractive to mothers and grandmothers of girls my age. I had served in the mission field, I was on my way to medical school, I came from a great family, etc. I had a lot going for me. For whatever reasons, their daughters/granddaughters were never quite as attracted to me, but I was a hit with the older generation.
So it was that I was frequently asked, ‘What are you looking for in a girl?’ (ie, Why haven’t you asked out my daughter/granddaughter, other than the obvious reason that she’s not interested in you?)
I eventually simplified my answer to a recited knee-jerk response of ‘Hot and Compassionate.’
I figured that if I was physically attracted to them, and they were a compassionate person (and they were attracted to me equally), then all the rest would fall into place. Yes, it was an oversimplified view of things, but at age 22/23, it made sense to me.
So in October of 2003, I found myself sitting in a room full of my medical school colleagues. A girl got up front and started talking about six weeks she had spent in Ethiopia. I could tell that she was really excited about serving the Lord in Africa. And from the back of the room, she looked pretty hot. (Some people look good from far, but far from good. She actually turned out to look even better close up!) I figured that in the few minutes of listening to her, I was now fully capable of judging her to be Hot and Compassionate.
And so, I turned to my friend sitting beside me and said, ‘I’m going to marry that girl.’ That girl turned out to be Danae.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I need to admit that this was not the first time I had said, ‘I’m going to marry that girl,’ the first time I ever saw a girl. In fact, I got the idea from my friend’s father, who had said the same thing about his future wife. I thought it was cool and decided that I would someday say the same thing the moment I laid eyes on my future wife. However, just to cover my bases, whenever I saw a girl who I thought had the potential to be my future wife, I had to tell whoever was standing/sitting next to me that ‘I’m going to marry that girl.’ As you can imagine, this led to many awkward moments, from shaking hands with a girl for the first time to meeting people in the check-out line at Wal-mart, there were many uncomfortable moments.)
Three years after hearing Danae speak for the first time, we exchanged our I-dos and I had my Hot and Compassionate. She had her... well, I’m not really sure what she had, but she had me. I got the better end of the deal, but she’s still making a go of it, bless her heart.
Then I slowly started to learn what the Compassionate part of the deal really meant. Compassionate meant working long hours to make sure all her patients were getting the best care possible. Compassionate meant making sure all her coworkers were ok. Compassionate meant I had to share my wife with others.
Then we came to Africa. It was here where I learned what Compassionate really entails.
Compassionate means that Danae’s hospital bill last time was $2400, paying for the medical care of countless women who wouldn’t otherwise be able to pay for treatments. Compassionate means that Danae is spending as much on her hospital bill as she earns. Compassionate means that I’d be financially almost as well off if Danae DIDN’T work, because then she wouldn’t see the need and wouldn’t agree to pay for all these women.
And then Compassionate hit a climax last Sabbath. We were walking the road to Kassere, to see the destruction the flooding had caused there. We had walked roughly three or four kilometers, mostly through thigh-deep water, when we came to a rise in the road, a spot where the road actually rose about the water and was dry for a few meters. There on the dry spot was a corpse. The body of a young woman in Arab garb, her face covered as they usually do after death. And there wasn’t a soul around with the body. On closer inspection, the corpse was breathing. Danae leaned over and pulled the cloth off her face and started to talk to her in French. She didn’t speak any French, so Danae tried a few words in Arabic. The corpse was able to breathe and talk, but was too weak to sit up.
Danae asked what I thought the problem was. I could see from across the road that her hands and fingernails were extremely pale, so I told her I was guessing severe anemia, most likely from malaria. Danae pulled down her conjunctiva and saw how pale she was and agreed. This girl needed a blood transfusion and IV quinine. But we were several kilometers of underwater road away from the hospital.
And then Compassionate did what Compassionate does. Danae simply bent over, picked the 12-year-old girl up (almost 70 pounds), slung her over her back, wrapped an African cloth around her like the women here carry their infants, and started trudging back to the hospital, through the deep water. In her mind, there was no other option of what to do.
Compassionate meant that we had to cut our walk short. Compassionate meant that Danae also escorted the girl all the way to the emergency room to make certain that she was seen by a nurse. Compassionate meant that Danae stayed to make sure she got the right treatment. And Compassionate meant that Danae went to our hospital blood bank and got a unit of blood to transfuse her emergently while waiting for the family to donate a bag of blood. Compassionate kept Danae and the hospital long enough to learn the girl’s blood type and to find out that her hemoglobin was 2. (Your hemoglobin is probably around 14.)
Nine years after I saw her for the first time, she’s still Hot. And she’s still Compassionate. And I’m still pretty lucky.