I’m nearly half way through my gap year abroad and I’ve learned quite a few things. How to cook and clean for myself, deal with credit card companies on the phone, manage my time well, experience and embrace cultures different than mine, and budget properly. But what I didn’t know what my gap year was going to teach me was how to count my blessings.
A blessing came to me this weekend in the form of a second degree burn. Camping for the weekend with my friends, we stayed at a Bedouin tent we found on Airbnb.com. Sitting around the fireplace, we talked and drank tea into late hours of the night. I stood up to accompany my friend to the great outdoors, and I fell a little, catching myself on what I assumed was an average metal pole. Turns out it was actually the chimney of the fireplace, full of smoke and heat. Registering in my mind that it was scalding hot, I pulled my hand away, but obviously I was too late. Watching my hand puff up and turn bright red, I experienced a brief moment of panic. Not to bring attention to myself to distract from the calm energy of the tent, I quietly but urgently ask our Bedouin host, Walledi, if there is something he has to treat a burn. “Vaseline, Neosporin, Ibuprofen, anything works,” I say, ignorant in my western way of thinking. He comes back with a jar of honey and one egg. Not exactly what I had in mind.
Taking my hand, Walledi wordlessly coats the affected area in honey, and then cracks the egg into a pot, mixing it up. Calmly he starts to drizzle egg on my hand, and with his other hand he gently presses on different pressure points near my wrist. Asking what he’s doing, he speaks only with his eyes. “Helping,” he seemed to say. My two friends came over and sat with me, and he quietly guided their hands to help press different pressure points, while he kept his hand pressed on my forehead. Murmuring softly in Hebrew, he seemed to explain a little what he was doing.
My western mind questioned his ways. Pressing my hand made it hurt more, honey seemed to make me sticky and egg made it slimy. Sticky, slimy, and in agonizing pain, I was perplexed and uncomfortable. Then something clicked. Maybe it was my inner self-coach or my inner journalist, but my mindset did a 180. This is an experience. Pain is so temporary. Let it happen. Be open to his way of thinking and try to understand.
As if opening my eyes, I began to understand what was going on from a new point of view. My Israeli friend, translating the Hebrew for me, told me that he said it would hurt more before it will start to hurt less, so even though it was hurting now, it wouldn’t last long. The honey and egg would draw the heat out of my hand when it dries, leaving my hand almost pain free. He was pressing on my forehead and sending me energy to focus my mind on something else, a kind of mind-over-body meditation. Meditating with him, his earnest eyes locked with mine, assuring me that everything was actually going to be all right. “Focus,” he said.
After about half an hour of wordless meditation, pressing, and the egg/honey treatment, my hand started to feel a little better. I quickly rejoined my friends, after thanking him profusely. In the moment, I was just glad that I could be back with my friends and not in as much pain as I was before. But the next day it hit me: I was just healed by Bedouin healer. I meditated with and was organically treated by someone who was so close to nature and life. Not every 19 year old American girl can say that.
So a burn became a blessing. I had an unforgettable and life changing experience when I burnt my hand. I felt closer to the authentic human experience, and learned from his ancient way of knowing, and understood a little bit of his original wisdom. The way I think is not always the only way of thinking that works, and that realization has freed me. My burnt hand was a blessing, and taught me to always stay open.
May my hand always reach out to what will teach me, and may my palms always be upturned and open to what I can learn.