Healing Hearts

Commentary by Judy Winters

Many years ago, I had an opportunity to visit to a leprosy camp in Southeast Asia. My friends and I were led into a visitor booth where we could observe leprosy patients through a glass window. Upon observing the patients, I was absolutely horrified at what I was seeing. I had seen pictures of leprosy patients before the visit, but none of them could have prepared me for the hideous sight I was witnessing.

Many of the patients had had their entire arms and legs completely “eaten” by the malicious disease. The closest analogy that I could think of would be a burned victim, having his limps amputated by fire. But leprosy is even more sinister; it consumes its victims at a slow pace and thus prolongs the indescribable suffering. To make matter worst, I could actually see the “eating” process happening live in front of my eyes. I felt a sudden urge to vomit. All I wanted to do at that moment was to leave the booth as quickly as possible, so I could be away from the horrific scene.

Just as I was about to leave the booth, I saw something I would never forget. Emerging among the leprosy patients were three young nuns, around 19-22 years of age, wearing all-white attires. They were the patients’ caretakers. They fed them, answered their questions, and cleansed their wounds. The nuns performed their jobs with pure joys, having neither afraid of the nastiness of the wounds nor the fact that leprosy is highly infectious. I could see in their eyes genuine affection and devotion. I could feel the tender and warmth, radiated from the devoting way the nuns conducted their work. They treated the lepers not as patients, but as friends in need of loving and care.

I was completely stunned and ashamed. Here I was, standing 40-50 ft from the patients protected by a cement wall, and yet was afraid to even cast my eyes upon these unfortunate beings. The nuns, on the other hand, stood side by side with these patients everyday but were unafraid. I later learned from the camp’s director that most of the people working at the camp volunteered to come to work here. They knew exactly what type of the condition they would face, but they came anyway. They are the true heroes of our world.

There are many people today who are doing similar work as the nuns in my story. There are doctors who gave up wealth and fame to serve the poor and needy in dangerous remote regions, where they could be killed at any moment. Although we might not be able to join them in the quest to make the world a better place, we can always support them in spirit and salute them for their selfless work.