The other day I was on my way out of Kibera to catch a matatu back to Karen when a boy came into the office with blood pouring out of his foot. He was tracking blood with each step he took, so I pulled him into the first aid room and instructed him to take a seat. Like most of the Kibera children I’ve dealt with, he didn’t complain or even appear to be in much pain, but it was clearly something that must have hurt at least a little bit. I’m not very squeamish around blood, so it didn’t bother me that there was so much of it, but it got a bit tricky when I saw that his foot was so plastered in dirt and mud that I couldn’t even figure out where the blood was oozing from. I began to look for rags or sterile wipes to sop up some of the blood, but we had none of those items in stock. All we had were gauze pads about 1” by 1” in size and my attempts to use those were a complete fail. The problem was that his feet were just so dirty that I couldn’t imagine even bandaging anything up in that filthy state. At the end of the day, we are almost always out of water, and this day was no different. There was no running water left on the school grounds. It became a trying moment for me because I couldn’t imagine what to do with the child and the mess he had brought in. I knew something had to be done because I couldn’t just send him away, and then someone reminded me that there is some extra water left in the kitchen usually for cooking the next morning. I sent one of the other interns to grab some of that in a bucket and bring it back. When he brought it in, the only thing that I figured could be done was to submerge the entire foot so as to wipe off all of the blood and grime completely. After dipping in and out a few times, his foot was clean enough for me to see that the cut was on one of his toes, from a broken glass bottle according to him. I had to spend some time picking dirt particles out of the deep cut before I could even apply antibacterial and bandage it up. It really needed stitches, but the bandage was the best I could do given the lack of resources to treat such a wound. After cleaning it out and bandaging it up, I washed the blood off of the worn yellow sandal he had been wearing and instructed him on how to keep the wound clean before sending him off.
I didn’t even realize how biblical this all was until later, but I guess I can say that I now understand how humbling it is to sit at someone’s feet and wash the dirt and grime from the streets off of them. In the United States we wear shoes everywhere and hardly come into contact with the amount of dust, mud, and garbage that they do on this side of the world. When Christ washed his disciples’ feet, they were probably similarly gross in appearance, aroma, and everything else that goes along with that. The experience of washing served as a really interesting microcosm of the human condition that I needed to be reminded of.