This was written by Dr. Silas Gomes and me. It was his experience. (Previously published in the Adventist Review)
“Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you. Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you.” I turned towards the sound of the nonsensical “English” chant and saw the source—He was dark, gaunt, skinny, dirty and almost naked.
He seemed so out of place—he was a lower caste in an upper caste village; his dirt caked body was incongruent with the full river flowing just a few feet from us; his blabbering in the quietness of the Sabbath morning was disturbing.
It was a special day and I wished he would leave before the rest arrived. I was there early after ensuring that my patients were taken care of, switching my turn to speak in church, and driving an hour on mountainous road.
Not the best time to be annoyed by a mad man, I thought as I tried to avoid eye contact with him. I hope he doesn’t stop to pester me for money. But He didn’t stop; He just walked on by. He didn’t ask for money; he just mumbled “Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you.”
As I breathed a sigh of relief from inconvenience, the pastor, church members and the 13 baptismal candidates arrived in the hospital bus. My heart swelled in pride and happiness at the sight. Baptisms in Nepal are done secretly and quickly in rivers that run through remote areas. This was not a time to take in nature, drag out the service or loiter around. The group was already on their way to the river bank and I was getting ready to follow them when I heard him: “Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you.” Oh. No! He’s back! Maybe he’ll just pass me by again, I hoped as I quickly walked to my motorbike to get my gadgets and myself ready to record the baptism for posterity.
It was a beautiful baptism. After the wonderful fellowship and lunch that followed, it was time to go. The bus was the first to leave. As I was about to get on my motorbike the man was back. This time he had an empty plastic bag held open. It was obvious he was hungry. It was obvious he was hoping that someone would throw a few scraps of food. Yet all I could focus on was his skinny, dirty, half-naked body and his not-so-lucid mind. I didn’t want him near me. I didn’t want to have to deal with him.
I quickly got on my motorbike and drove away. My engine hummed against the background of “Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you”. As I wound my way back to the hospital I was consumed with the plight of that hungry man and the realization that I had with me a can of potato chips I was too full to eat. The chips were probably all that man needed to make his day. Yet there I was driving away with it.
I have not been able to forget that man. One look at him and I had decided he was not worth my time. The value I placed on him was based on his appearance and his words. One look at him and I had decided that he was not worthy of being part of the baptism scene or my lunch.
As a human being I have this problem of placing face values on people. It is easy to judge people by their appearance, their social status, their mental acumen, and the comfort level I have in their presence. That is my humanness, my weakness.
That crazy man has made me understand God’s love more clearly. The price tag He places on each of us is so high that all the gold on earth will not be worthy of us. The value He places on us is that of His own Son. Should the earth have been populated by just one dark, gaunt, skinny, dirty and almost naked man mumbling “Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you” all day, God would have still sent His Son to die just for him. God would have done that because His value system is not like mine. He holds each one of us gently in His loving hands, turns us over and over, sees all our flaws, all our handicaps, all our disabilities—and then tags us all equally worthy.