When I was a young adult I spent several summers working at camp. If there’s one thing you get pretty comfortable with working at a kid’s camp, its lice. The first day of every camp involved a detailed lice check system and we all had to help out. We got used to the “it’s nothing to be ashamed of” talk and gave it so often that we came to believe it in the very bottom of our hearts. Which is probably well illustrated by the fact that I’m now writing a blog about lice this week. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of!!”
Although every summer had its fair share of our little hair-clinging friends, it was the summer of 1998 that really took the cake. Ah, 1998! After doing one week at a camp off site, we came back to discover that EVERY STAFF MEMBER HAD LICE. That’s right. Every single one. After dropping a small fortune on lice shampoo, we all sat in lines like baboons combing each other’s hair. We had to go into town and take over a laundromat so we could get all the laundry done. It was kind of stressful, but mostly we just laughed. What else was there to do? And it didn’t end there. Turns out that in the area that summer there was a strain of what the pharmacist told us had been called “Ninja Lice” that were resistant to treatment. True story. NINJA LICE. We fought them hard all summer. Week after week. I was treated NINE TIMES before I was finally clear. I will tell you we grew to loathe those Ninja Lice, but it wasn’t all bad. There’s few things that better teach you humility and community than when you have to let someone comb lice eggs out of your hair. Each week, with each new check, I would have to say to someone again: “Can you help me?” while I had to sit there and let myself be helped. And then I would have to do the same for someone else. Comb comb comb. Strand by strand. Love love love.
This story is important for you to understand why I got an interesting phone call on Monday morning this week. It was from a good friend of mine, who had worked with me at the same camp during the summer of the Ninja Lice. (In fact, we shared a bed that whole summer, although she did insist that we sleep head to foot). She had been having a bad day. Her father had had a heart attack the night before and she needed to get to the hospital. To add insult to injury, she had found lice in her daughter’s head that morning.
“Do you think you could come treat it and do the combing?” she asked me, “I know you know what to do.”
Of course I said yes. Because sometimes when your friend is going through a hard time you help by making a meal, and sometimes you help them by doing some lice-combing. Truth be told, I’m far better at the second.
“By the way, I told my daughter about when you had lice seven times, and that made her feel better,” she said.
“It was nine,” I reminded her.
“Even better!” she replied.
This was the point that I realized that I should check my kids as well, and you guessed it: two more lice cases. I tucked my hair into a hat and we hopped into the car to have our little de-lousing party with our friend, which the kids thought was just the greatest. Me? Not so much…but I as I learned 17 years ago – you might as well have a good attitude.
We made jokes and kept spirits up as my friend’s husband gave my son a buzz cut and I started shampooing the girls. It was a long day, with treatment, combing, second combing, laundry, an unrelated church meeting at my house, and a trip to the hospital to visit with my friend and her dad. She dropped me off at the way home from the hospital. As she did I asked her that very intimate favour we dread having to ask: “Can you check my head?”
And guess what?
TIME NUMBER TEN!!
Well, to be truthful, we weren’t entirely sure. If anything it was a very mild case. But as you can imagine, I wasn’t taking chances. So after one more treatment of the day, I sat down in a chair and asked my husband: “Can you comb my hair?” While I may be one expert lice comber, I still can’t do it for myself. I needed help.
Such is the lesson I keep needing to learn again and again in my life. No matter how much I think I can do it all, I can’t. I put a lot through my hands this last Monday. I admit, I was pretty proud of myself. I kind of felt like a bit of a mom-ninja, taking on the task at hand. I was DOING THIS THING!! Then the day ended and no matter what else I may have been able to do I couldn’t do for myself what I’d been able to do for others. Someone had to help. I had to receive it. And I even had to sit still while it happened. Needy. Dependent on someone else. Vulnerable.
I actually hate asking for help. I hate needing help. This has made this fall rather stressful for me because I have actually needed help a LOT. Turns out that I can’t pastor a church on my own!
I am more surprised by this than I should be.
But it also turns out that when you are willing to ask, more people than you could ever imagine will be there for you. You can plunk yourself in a chair and they’ll care for you in ways you could not have even dreamed. They’ll step up. They’ll care when you can’t. They’ll visit. They’ll plan. They’ll listen. They’ll support you. They’ll even lice comb, if you ask. Comb comb comb. Strand by stand. Love love love.
None of us can do life on our own. We weren’t even made to! And just like I will reiterate time and again about lice: Needing help “is nothing to be ashamed of!”
Hopefully, you won’t need Ninja Lice to remind you.