Because I’m black, I assumed I had enough melanin to keep me safe.
A couple years ago I went to Haiti on a missions trip. I was prescribed Docycylin as an anti malaria medication. So, I took it. I read the directions, and took the medication exactly how I was directed to. I’m all about directions and knowing the side effects when it comes to medications, because I’m all about not dying. “Take 1 hour before a meal,” means I have to wait, exactly, sixty minutes before I can eat. But here’s the thing, there were some side effects to the medication that I felt did not apply to me. For example, sensitivity to the sun… you know, because I’m black. I assumed I had enough melanin to keep me safe. I went on to spend five or six hours in the scorching, summer heat of Haiti.
At some point during that time, our group separated and some of us went on what we were told would be a “quick” tour through the town. Mistake number one, believing the believable Haitian man who told us it would be a “quick” walk. Mistake number two, leaving my water behind because I believed the believable Haitian man who told us it would be a “quick” walk. 3 hours later… we returned to the rest of the group and I was almost positive I was dying.
I just knew I was going to die that day. My hands were tingling and getting numb, my head was throbbing and my face hurt. Literally, it hurt! We drove back to the house and my face was on fire. “Jesus, are you coming for me in Haiti? Is this it?”. I talked to one of the doctors with us, told her my symptoms and she told me I was dehydrated:
“ But my hands are numb.”
“ You’re dehydrated.”
“ So, I don’t have Cholera? I’m not dying?” (This was during the Cholera outbreak, totally a legit question.)
“You are not dying.”
“ But my face!”
“ Excuse me?”
“Sunburned, you were out in the sun too long. You should have reapplied your sunblock.”
“But I’m black.”
I walked away, of course, assuming she was confused.
I believed that I was dehydrated, but I did not believe that I was sunburned.
Later that night, as I was upstairs examining my face, one of my team members, Andrea (white), asked me how I was feeling:
“I’m really dehydrated and my face hurts.”
“Oh. You’re sunburned?”
“No. I’m black! We just get darker and sometimes we peel! I’m Black!”
Enters Jon. (Also, white.)
“What’s going on?”
“My face hurts”
“Oh, are you sunburned?”
“Does is hurt?”
“Yeah, but Jon…”
“Pretty sure WE have more experience than YOU in this area and you’re definitely sunburned, Tasha!”
“But Tasha… you’re sunburned and you’re STILL black.”
*Moment of silence and reflection*
“Oh my gosh guys, I think I’m sunburned! It’s true!”
“Is this your life?! How do you guys survive this life? I feel so sorry for all white people, all over the world! It feels like my face is on fire!”
Sometimes we don’t believe that exposure to certain things will effect us. Even after being warned. We think we are stronger than we are.
By this time half the team had gathered and not a dry eye was in the room. They laughed and laughed and laughed.
I have become the official story to tell the people going on the Haiti mission trip. I am the example of what not to do. “Wear your sunscreen and be sure to reapply, even if you are black. Don’t believe us? Let us tell you a story…”
I thought about this story and chuckled. It made me consider the significance of exposure. Sometimes we don’t believe that exposure to certain things will effect us. Even after being warned. We think we are stronger than we are. We think our past experiences prove logic and reason wrong. Therefore we don’t take the proper precautions to guard our hearts and minds against the things of this world. Ordinary things, things that we assume could never hurt us. Funny because, it is often the ordinary things that lead us astray and catch us by surprise. Be careful what you expose yourself to.
Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. Proverbs 4:23