Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A New View

Tis the season for Thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for, my family, my home, my health. These are things that comes to most minds when we count our blessings. However, after my last trip to Honduras, I came away with a new view of things I should be thankful for.

I go to Honduras to visit my dear friends, Henry and Cindy Lowman, who are missionaries and humanitarians in Yamaranguila and surrounding areas. In August I joined them and their team as they visited a poor family in a settlement outside of town called Buenos Aris. The family consisted of A grandfather and mother, a son and his wife, and four children, one was an infant. They lived in a 12x12 stick and mud home with dirt floors.

As Henry spoke to the grandfather, I watched the grandmother. She had something on her mind and worked her knarled hands together as if working up the courage to speak. Finally, she approached Henry and asked if he would pour a concrete floor for them. This is a luxury for these families, to get off the cold, damp, earth that is full of parasites and diseases.

Henry had to consider the logistics of getting trucks full of sand and gravel to a house so far off the road. He spoke with the grandther and they figured out a way. He returned to the grandmother and said he would pour a floor for her the next day. Her brown skin crinkled under her eyes and she thanked him again and again.

The next morning as we prepared to leave, a young man met us at the house. He was a recipient of a floor earlier in the year and helped at every house since out of great gratitude. As the team poured the floor, I played with the children. We sat on the ground and the kids clung to me with their dirty hands sticky with mango juice. Their dusty, black, hair crawled with lice. But who could resist such children. I couldn't, even though just the thought made my head itch like crazy.

One little girl decided we should play a game. She patted each of us on the head as she walked in a circle around us and said, "Pato, pato, ganso." The last child patted stood and chased her until he caught her. Hmmm, I thought, they are playing "duck, duck, goose." So when my turn came I said in english, "Duck, duck, goose." They stared for a minute then laughed. For the rest of the game they repeated, "Dook, dook, goose."

Thankfully, the game lost its charm. Perhaps the kids were concerned about my inability to catch my breath. We decided to help the team by taking empty wheelbarrows to the truck to be filled with sand and gravel. Of course, the kids rode. We passed the pond that was the source of the family's water. I looked at the stagnant water covered with green slime. The women used a stick to push it aside while they washed their clothes from the bank. Then they filled their pitchers. Cindy assured me they boiled it before drinking. I was still horrified.

When the team finished, we gathered around the family and prayed for God to bless them and their house. The young man who helped asked for a ride home and joined us in the van. On the way, Henry asked him if he'd gotton water yet. You see, the village of Yamaranguila has a well, and in order to get water from it a family has to build a concrete container, dig a trench to the nearest hook-up, and buy the pipe. They they must pay a $200.00 deposit. The young man said no. He'd built his container, dug a 1000 foot trench by hand and purchased the pipe. But he lost his job and couldn't save money for the deposit.

The people in that area are lucky if they can earn minimum wage there, which is $3.00 an hour. So for this young man to save $200.00 would take well over a year. Of course, this whole conversation was in Spanish. Cindy translated the conversation and two men asked how much the man needed for the deposit. She told them and they said, "as soon as we get back to your house, we will give you the money."

With tears spilling down her face, she told the young man he would soon have water. The man looked at the team in astonishment and cried "God will bless you, thank you, God will bless you." As soon as he arrived home, he jumped out of the van and ran to his wife, waving his hands over his head, telling her they would soon have clean water.

I don't mind telling you, when we got back to the Lowman's home, I made a straight line for the shower. As the warm water washed away the mango mud and prevented lice from setting up housekeeping, I thought about the family we'd just left. They would go to bed without washing.

On the flight home, I thought about how blessed we are in the United States. Then it occurred to me how such blessings also carries a the great responsibilty. We must be faithful to the poor. To hoard for ourselves and waste so much time on silly things is a shame. To complain about our country and to endulge in self-pity because we think we deserve more is a disgrace. How much better it is for all if we spend time thinking about how to help those sleeping on dirt, bathing and drinking filthy water. Even those with clean water will never know what a warm shower feels like. Theirs will be cold.

So this Thanksgiving, as I am surrounded by my healthy family, I will think about the Honduran people and ways I can help them, I will be grateful for a hot bath in drinking quality water.

I will thank God.