About That Sandwich

Before I can give you this sandwich, I need to ask you a few questions. Please try to keep down that rumbling sound in your stomach. It is very distracting and it will only make this interview go longer.

Now, let’s start with this. When was the last time you ate? Where were you the last time you ate? Who ate with you? Did you share it with them? Did they have a sandwich too? Please answer these questions as clearly as you can and I will do my best to get your sandwich to you as soon as possible. Sign on the dotted line to attest to the accuracy and honesty of your answers. Thank you for your cooperation.

During our years of service in Kenya, we learned the African proverb: ‘Never interview a hungry man. Feed him first and he will volunteer the answers.’

We are now over 8 years in service as the Miriam Medical Clinics. We have provided care for hundreds of men and women. Some of them had adequate resources, which made it easy. They could access both public and private transportation to the clinic, had enough money to purchase their medications had no obvious addiction to dangerous substances. There are many more, however, who are controlled by substance and circumstance. The history of physical and sexual abuse as children and young adults, incarceration in jails and prisons, history of both psychological and emotional disturbances complicate providing medical care. These are the factors which make it necessary to keep the intake medical interview, short and sweet. “What is your name? How can we help you?”

We recognize there are extenuating circumstances and diagnosis codes that are part of providing care. We are supposed to ask; ‘Are you addicted? Do you smoke? Are you hetero, bi, homo or trans-sexual? Have you had or do you have a sexually transmitted disease? Are you safe in your home? To say the least, it is difficult to conduct this interview. We would like to get to the bottom line first. “How can we help you?”

Interviewing a hungry man makes it difficult for him to answer the questions. He has one thing and only one thing on his mind. He wants to stave off the hunger. He wants that sandwich. We don’t need immediately to know where he spent his last welfare check or why did he leave the last homeless shelter. We don’t immediately need to know why she is still with the boyfriend who pimps her out to get the rent and utilities paid. We don’t immediately need to know why their family members won’t or can’t help. These are not the urgent questions. The only urgent question is “How can we help you?

How do we help your pain situation? How can we help with your blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and your body aches? Is there anyone you would like us to contact to provide other resources for housing, clothing or food assistance? “How can we help you?”

Once we ask the right questions, the hungry man may tell us his story. But even if he doesn’t give us more information, our calling is not to interview. Our calling is to help.

Ask the right questions of those you encounter everyday. Now, about that sandwich. Would you like mayonnaise or mustard?

John 9:1-2 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.