Sunday, May 29, 2011
to remember is good.
Mesquite interviewed me recently as part of an English project she is working on. She had quite a long list of thought provoking questions that took me down memory lane. After we finished the first round of questions, she thanked me for my efforts, but then told me we'd have to do some more work. She didn't want just answers--she wanted stories. I talked about my mission to Colombia in the 1980s in response to a question about an event in my life that had changed me. It was easy to put my mission at the top of a list of life-altering experiences. I recalled a family that my companion and I visited, who lived about a mile outside the major city of Medellin. The paved streets quickly turned to dirt roads, which then turned to winding dirt foot paths, leading up hillsides and into what I really thought felt like the middle of the jungle. We found their home, which was nothing more than a simple one-room shanty with a tin roof and a dirt floor. I remember feeling a sense of amazement that there were people in the world who lived like this; the family sharing a single bed, clothing hanging from hooks attached to the support beams under the roof, the kitchen nothing more than a portable burner made from a large tin can and a large wash tub outside the door. There was no running water in the house; the light inside came from a single bulb dangling from a wire which entered the house through a gap where the wall didn't quite meet the metal canopy. It was all they knew, and they were happy. On that day, the mother was feeling distraught at the prospect of a new school year just weeks away, and no money to pay for the childrens' school uniforms. The kids would not be allowed to attend if they were not properly dressed. I wrote a letter home describing the dilemma to my parents. On the day my letter arrived, a friend had stopped by, and listened as my parents read the letter out loud. Right there on the spot, he pulled out his checkbook and wrote the check for $25 U.S. dollars which would cover the cost for the two uniforms. I was humbled by his act of kindness, and in an instant, had my eyes opened to the difference between my life style back home, and the struggle to provide basic necessities on a hill in South America. I hardly blink an eye when it's time for school to start, and with my kids, we make our annual pilgrimage to Target to purchase school supplies. I need to remind us all that there are places in the world where trying to decide between the oblong blue pencil holder or the glittery silver square one is like an unimaginable fantasy.