Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The grace of God...

One day I was driving along the 2 lane road from SBV to Casa LAMB.    Traffic slowed to almost a stop because a pick up truck was broken down on the side of the road.  The driver could have pulled it farther over, thus not obstructing traffic.  Instead, he was on the ground, under the truck making repairs.  I imagined this scene in the US.  Angry drivers honking, shouting, gesticulating...police arriving on the scene to move him along.  Instead, all the cars and trucks patiently wove their way around the hapless driver.  "What is the difference," I wondered.  My conclusion was that it was the "There  but for the grace of God go I" phenomenon.  I am sure a large percentage of the drivers have been in the same spot, or know they will be given the state of the roads and most vehicles.  There is an inherent grace when you can empathize with someone in a pickle.   It is the same phenomenon when you see drivers tossing a few lempira out the window to an "entrepreneur" who is filling potholes on a busy street.  They get it.  "That could be me."

As I approach the end of my third year in Honduras, I am reflecting on what I have learned.  There are not enough blog posts to cover everything I have learned.  Here are a few things I have learned from the Honduran people:

1. Don't ask questions, help.  One day a team and I were in the van on our way home from SBV.  There was heavy traffic when a motorcyclist in front of us was hit by a car.  The driver was injured and in great pain.  Our van driver stopped the van and ran to his aid.  A couple of us, including a medical professional, followed.   We were doing our best to help the victim when a big, brand new, expensive SUV pulled up.  The driver, obviously wealthy, shouted, "Get him in the back seat!"  Then he drove over the median, heading in the opposite direction, to take him to a hospital.  No questions asked.  Just help. 
2. Work together.   With unemployment at 40% and underemployment much higher, despair can become the path of least resistance.  While there certainly is despair here or, worse, enlistment into gangs and organized crime, there is more creativity and human spirit.  No job?  Go buy some snacks or merchandise at the mercado and walk among the traffic selling them at a small profit.  I see the street vendors, otherwise competitors, collaborating with each other, helping each other make change, socializing while waiting for the light to change.  "We are in this together. You help me and I will help you."  
3. Never give up.  In a country with no safety net (and I mean NO safety net) many elderly people have no alternative than to work until they die. Note to people in the US:  Think carefully about what we do about our safety net.  Living without one is heartbreaking.   In this photo taken at the end of the day, an elderly man walks by selling cotton candy on the street.   
4. Love.  Just love.  Of course, this is an easy one when you are surrounded by the children and staff of LAMB.  I was just at the school in Flor when a 5th grader ran up to me and gave me her "merienda" (snack) - a pack of chocolate cookies.   Little Fani at the Children's Home instinctively watches out for blind Yolani or little Darwin.  The older kids help the staff or the visiting Northamericans.  Our oldest micro-credit client, Trinidad, is 92 and always meets me with a smile and a reminder that she prays for us every day.  For us!
5. Trust in God.  They believe that the Lord walks each step with us.  One day, some much needed money disappeared from our office after some delivery people from a company had been there.  David's response to this blow?  "The Lord will provide."  He did.  Another day recently, I offered to buy pepper spray for one of our staff members.  She lives in Flor and goes to school in the evening.  I thought this would give her (and me) peace of mind.  She sweetly declined saying,  "God will protect me."  During a recent dire situation in which a family was held hostage by criminals in their own home, there was no human solution. Only God could solve the problem.  Prayer was our only option.  We prayed knowing that God would hear us.  He did.  The family is free.  
6. Be sweet.  OK, I learned this from my parents who exhorted me to "be sweet" whenever we parted company.  I passed this along to my boys as well and it was one of the first Spanish phrases I learned when I got here.  Except here, it is a given.  I say it to Jose David, our van driver, simply to elicit laughter from him.  I don't think he knows how not to be sweet.   When I pass strangers on the street, in a store or even driving down the road, I smile or say "Buenas!"  Their response is a beaming smile.  On the many, many
occasions that I have been clumsy, lost, confused, or just plain dumb there are always people nearby coming to my aid.  (I imagine their pay off is a hilarious story for the dinner conversation..."You'll never guess what this gringa did today...")  Of course, there is our cook Dulce (whose name actually means sweet) and our housekeeper, Gloria, who raise being sweet to new levels.  
7. Be generous.  People here are generous.  They are generous with their possessions (the poorest of the poor will share their food with you,) with their love, and with their spirit.  Everyone here has a back story.  They understand the plight of the homeless person, the struggles of the unemployed person, the hurt of the abused woman, the heartbreak of the family who just lost a loved one to violence.  Many have been there, done that or are just one degree of separation.  They weep with the person risking and giving up everything to go to the US or Spain in hopes of providing for his/her family.  They hold up the family, the heartbroken children left behind.  They are personally familiar with more pain and suffering than most Americans can conceive of.   They get it.  "It could be me."  
Lucy falls out after battling
her birthday pinata!
8. Have fun.  In the midst of this there is always fun.  Any reason to celebrate will do...an inexpensive pinata, a shared meal, lots of singing, plenty of laughter.   

It has been a glorious 3 years.  I can wait for the next 3 and the 3 after that to start!  The last 2 and most important things I have learned in Honduras:

9.  Each of us is a beloved child of God.

10.  God is always faithful.

Feliz navidad!