Friday, May 25, 2007

The Blessing of an Impermanent Smile

If you’ve read the Kite Runner – you might remember that the eponymous character, a preteen Afghan servant-boy was born with a cleft lip; a permanent smile as the book put it. I read the book relatively recently at the urging of my Mom. Though initially not very interested in the book, I found I couldn’t put it down once I’d started and was rather disappointed when it ended. I wish it had been a few hundred pages longer. It’s a story spanning several years spent in pre and mid-civil-war Kabul and in San Francisco.

One of the most heart-warming passages in the book for me – and the book had many heart-warming as well as heart-breaking ones L - was when the protagonist’s father, a rich Afghan Pathan, at whose house the Kite-Runner worked and lived, flew in a doctor from India on the Kite Runner’s birthday to perform surgery on him to fix the cleft lip. And in doing so, gave him the gift, no a blessing, of smiling only when he wanted to, only when his smile could also reach his eyes.

It wasn’t long after I finished reading the book and perhaps because it was on my mind, I came across an ad in the newspaper by an organization called the TheSmileTrain. I think it was the organization’s name that first caught my eye…it brought a vision of train bogies full of happy, smiling, sunny faces to mind. I read the ad – something I don’t usually do – and then checked out their website too. Feel free to do the same by clicking on anywhere that TheSmileTrain’s name is mentioned in this post. Beware – before you click - you might find yourself compelled to make a donation. TheSmileTrain is an organization dedicated to performing the simple surgery to fix cleft lips on kids all across the world. That’s all they do. In countries like India, Brazil, Uganda, these surgeries cost as little as $250 and have the ability to transform the lives of these kids. Since 2000, they’ve helped more than 200,000 children, many of them in India.

In TheSmileTrain’s words millions of children suffering... with unrepaired clefts...cannot eat or speak properly. Aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. And face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation, pain and heartache. Many are also abandoned by their parents at birth. Think about it, when was the last time you saw someone with a cleft lip in a position of power or eminence. Families suffer too. A friend of mine who was looking at the web-site with me, told me about a friend who didn’t want to share pictures of her new-born baby with any of her friends and relatives. The mother privately told my friend, that the baby had a cleft lip and the parents, who I’m sure loved their child, did not want to show him off until the surgery that they were lucky enough to be able to afford.

There are so many things in life that we should not take for granted. A voluntary smile, I think, is something everyone should be able to. Here’s to TheSmileTrain for working to extend that privilege and blessing to more and more people everyday.


Chandra Karrothi said...

Well I made a donation today. I think you will make me bankrupt soon.

Addicted to Friends said...

You're a total softie Chandra :)

Good going.