A little bit of respect goes a long way.
I’ve never learned that lesson so clearly and so wonderfully as I did tonight at the hospital.
I’m the first girl to travel with PLC into southern Iraq, and the Courtneys warned me ahead of time: southern Iraq is serious about modesty. “Did you know your ankles are ‘sexy’?” Jess joked in an email to me, explaining the need to be covered all the way to my toes. She wanted me to dress in a completely non-threatening way because she wanted the women to be comfortable around me while I interact with and photograph their children.
So I stepped off the airplane in Basra wearing a floor length black maxi dress, a loose, long sleeve black shirt, and a black head scarf. “Arabica?” the woman at passport control asked. Nope. At one point in the 2-hour car ride from Basra one of our security guards turned to me and asked, “Do you wear the hijab in America, too?”
He was surprised when I said I didn’t and asked why would I wear it here, then. Jeremy answered: “Respect.”
It was at the hospital that I most understood how beautiful a little respect can be. As I entered the children’s ward I was (predictably) swarmed by precious Iraqi kids wanting their picture taken. From experience I knew their mothers lingered behind doorways, away from the camera. But this time one mother approached me, motioned to her child, and I snapped my camera. It just took that one and then all of the mothers were clamoring for photos with their kids! They touched my skirt and my head scarf and interrogated me excitedly in Arabic about my outfit. Picture after picture–not only of women but of them smiling boldly at the camera, proud mothers. I have never experienced anything like it and I am certain that my dress had much to do with it.
By letting go of a bit of “me” and taking on a bit of “them” I saw firsthand what an incredible tool respect can be. I’m VERY excited for this week of Remedy–both remedy for the health of these kids and the remedy of divisive misconceptions.