“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” —Mary Oliver
A team from my church had been in the Dominican Republic for just over a week. Toward the end of our time there, our hosts took us to visit the medical clinic. As we were finishing our tour, we passed by their cataract room.
Cataract correction is a significant need in this community. Since the sun on the island is so intense and since so many of the people have outdoor jobs (like farming), the incidence of vision loss from cataracts is quite high. Almost imperceptibly over time, these people fall victim to the damaging rays until whatever sight they have is reduced to a small field of mostly blur.
Left unchecked, this condition can lead to being incapacitated, helpless, and unable to make even a small living. These poor, rural islanders walked into the clinic we were visiting with cloudy sight and emerged with 20/20 vision. The procedure let the light back in.
However, when the clinic had first opened, they had very few takers for this procedure. What changed? A handful of people who had the surgery went out into the rural parts of the island and told their stories.
These storytellers were so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that their story could not be contained. Once these former patients became storytellers in the villages, cataract sufferers from all over the island began lining up at the clinic.1