l e only way out is through.








Yvonne's Smile 

Dr. Maithri Goonetilleke  

  Swaziland Stamps

Siteki, Swaziland

Maybe if I was a better photographer I could capture it. The un-nameable softness that can melt the hardest heart.

Yvonne is 15 years old. She has a progressive neurological disorder which has never been fully diagnosed.

Since birth she has had episodes of profound weakness, whereby she develops flaccid paralysis of one or more limbs and at times is unable to even lift her head from her pillow.

When I visited her recently in her homestead. She was shivering under a tiny, dirty blanket, breathing very rapidly, and suffering from a pneumonia which was resistant to oral antibiotics.

We transferred her to hospital where she has been receiving intravenous medicine now for several days, and making a steady recovery.

Every night after work, I visit my friend. She cannot move her head to acknowledge my presence in the room. But she smiles, with a deep sincerity and gentle grace which never fails to move me.

In the last two days, Yvonne has seen two young women die in the bed next to her. Both were infected with HIV, and both suffered greatly.

I sit down on the wooden stool by her bed and we talk about her day.

Due to weakness of her laryngeal muscles, Yvonnes speaks very softly and tires quickly.

Yvonne loves yoghurt. Thick, apricot yoghurt.

So on my visits I always try and remember to bring a little tub. I lift her head off the mattress with one hand, and with a borrowed spoon from the hospital kitchen, feed her a little yoghurt before bedtime.

She savours each spoonful and swallows slowly and carefully, before nodding her head to tell me to continue.

This has become our little ritual and I look forward to it each day.

When she has had her fill, she quietly says ‘enough’. I wipe her mouth with the hand towel that sits by her bed and ask “How was it my friend?”

Yvonne smiles broadly and gently as if to say “It was good.”

In the wings of her tender grace and unbounded dignity, Yvonne reminds me each day that we are not called to change this crazy world.

We are called simply to love it.

Love the world into change,



Maithri G. is a medical doctor who is currently working with orphaned children in the African country of Swaziland. He has been a dear friend to Inspiration Peak for many years enchanting us with his poems and inspiring us to remember the hungry, sick and lonely children of the world.

More Letters from Maithri

Maithri's Poems   Maithri's Stories

Maithri's Website

Maithri with Swaziland Children

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