The Ten Dollar Difference -- Bruce Main

It was the first thing I noticed about Dalitsani—a slight Malawian boy maybe ten or eleven years old.

His odd-looking index finger.

Roughly the size of a cucumber, it looked conspicuously large compared with the remaining fingers on his hand.  He was obviously conscious of this overgrown, infected appendage, making sure it bumped or hit nothing.  I winced, imaging the pain and discomfort this kid must endure each day.

The second thing I noticed about Dalitsani was his oozing left eye.   His eyeball was covered with a thick coating of mucus, water dripping down his cheek.  He tilted his head, brushed his cheek against his muddied shoulder, and wiped away the moisture.

I gave him a hug as he walked towards his after-school classroom.

“What’s up with his finger?” I asked Peter, the director of ChristCares Ministries.

“It’s infected,” came the reply.  “It’s quite common.”

“Quite common?” I questioned.  “Why doesn’t he go to the doctor?”

“He can’t afford it.”

I continued my query.  “What’s it cost to go to the doctor?”

Peter paused, looked at me, and replied.  “Ten dollars.”

Ten dollars?  For a family in a village, ten dollars is an incredible amount of money.  So a kid like Dalitsani just endures…throbbing pain, a staph infection coursing through his veins, sleepless nights…all while he’s supposed to pay attention in school.

“What about his eye?”  I ask.

Peter tells me that Dalitsani had an infection when he was a kid.  His parents couldn’t afford to take him to a doctor, so they took him to the local herbalist.  The wrong medicine was applied.  The eye was lost.  Now it just oozes and throbs.  I didn’t ask Peter what it would have cost that time.  Maybe twenty dollars?

I asked Peter to take him to the doctor.  Two days later Peter reports back.

“Dalitsani was so excited to go to the doctor,” he begins.  “They cut open the finger, drained the staph, and medicated the wound.  He said he slept last night for the first time in weeks.”

I am not sure how to respond.  Happy, of course, that one child was given a little relief.  Disheartened, because children continue to suffer and lose sight—because of an insurmountable ten dollars.