When the kids were little, Jake probably just beginning school, we had our first bout with head lice.
All of us but Bob seemed to be prone, the four of us itching the back of our heads, I had no idea what was in store to get rid of the momma and her nits.
By the time all three sons were in elementary, I was old hat at recognizing the early first signs of an infestation; matty looking hair and fingers roughly scratching an itch that never went away.
Of course it wasn’t going away.
Lice were busy wandering in and around all those little hair shafts, sucking blood and laying sticky eggs. (Those are the ‘nits’ for you uninitiated and you can’t guarantee your rid of the bugs until every single one of those light brown egg cases has been stripped from every hair on your head. You can’t return to school until then either.)
Infestation meant an expensive trip to the drugstore for lice shampoo and numerous products to get rid of the lice burrowing in pillows and sofas and anything else 3 little tow-headed sons had touched.
The first time, I cleaned everything, moving furniture outside and stripped and sprayed lice deterrent on mattresses. For two weeks, the lice life cycle, we poisoned our hair, confirmation the shampoo was doing its job by that slightly tinny taste left in our mouths as the chemicals soaked through our skin.
From those days on, I never considered any perceived shame on anyone who might know we had lice; at the first sign I just began the annihilation program. The boys got tired of the grooming. While Bob would exclaim, “THOSE tiny little things? You can hardly seem them. Or you sure we have to get rid of them all?” I would make the boys sit and comb through each fine hair, slightly panicked on how many nits I might find. As they got older, head shaving was the better option and often it fit in with other things that were going on their lives.
Twenty years later, I leaned over and hugged a slight young Nicaraguan girl whose family was trying to find a better life in Costa Rica. She had come to the free clinic of which I was a volunteer, her little chest wheezing after each breath. As I took the stethoscope from my friend, a doctor of extrodinary heart and faith, she had me listen to the tell tale signs of asthma. I placed my hand on the child’s back and leaned forward, my head touching her matty hair. Her little fingers inched up to scratch her scalp.
That time with my sons of close children and sharing of bugs was too far away, a world of events, between those worries and days of young families and childhoods.
I straightened up and as the look of knowledge passed between me and the nurse, she packed lice shampoo in a take home bag for the small patient.
On the plane home, my head itched. I could feel the lice roaming around in my scalp looking for the best blood supply. Within two days of arriving home, I borrowed John’s lice shampoo. It was a sunny morning, I had just begun to soap up my hair, leaning over the kitchen sink, when my friend Ana came in the door. She is smart and has a natural intelligence for mechanical things. She also has three children and two grandchildren. She immediately assessed the situation. Although we don’t speak the same language natively, she does a better job with mine than I do with her El Salvadoran Spanish and without much ado, she kindly steered me to a chair and took the nit comb from my hand. She began combing through my wet hair, the right way, the comb sweeping close to my scalp, to make sure its fine teeth ripped any nits from my fine strands of hair. She kept me abreast of the progress, looking in all the right little niches that lice like to hide. The report was good, the repeated strokes from the comb turned up nothing.
But Ana, for reasons that have nothing to do with lice, continued to comb my hair. The sun shone through the window, the sunbeams resting on my shoulders and Ana’s hands as she patiently and thoughtfully combined through my hair. Her care for me was nothing short of precious. Ana leaned over and in her best English, she said, “ I have a daughter who will take care of me when I get old. You don’t have a daughter.” She continued her ministrations.
There are some moments, some ordinary ones that are never asked for, hoped for, or considered but turn out to be the finest we experience. I have paid handsomely for people to comb my hair and rub my shoulders, but Ana’s care for me that fine morning last week held nothing to those. I sat in that chair and was humbled by her gift of friendship that had nothing to with who we are, to each other and to the world. The world is small these days and we are all just people, no matter where we are or who we are, that thrive on human touch. No, God in His wisdom didn’t give me any daughters, but my on my, what friends, and sons, and family God has blessed me with.
Today’s Bible Verse: The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7