I think it’s easy to go through life, not actually feeling. We all generally have routines. Get up. Check social media/email. Coffee. Breakfast. Get the kids off to school. Go to work. Lunch with friends, (everyone on their phones). Get back from work. Take the kids to practice. Dinner. A little tv. Check social media…again. Bed. Rinse and repeat. Something like that.
Earlier this week, Karlie and I went to visit Tomasa, a Grandma whom I’d met the week before. She couldn’t walk to the clinic so we went to her. We had another home visit scheduled and we both had full schedules for the rest of the day so we were kind of on a mission. A quick visit. Assess the situation. Get to the next appointment so we could get back to campus. NO PEELING ONIONS.
“Good morning! How’s your mom?” I asked Maria as she peeked through the rusty gate.
“She’s ok. Come in! Come in!”
Maria led us to the room where her mom was and then disappeared. A few seconds later she returned with two plastic stools for us to sit on. I’ve seen this ritual hundreds of times over the last 6 years. Guatemalans are the most hospitable people!
Karlie looked at her swollen ankles and in English said, “That looks like Congestive Heart Failure. Her heart is weak and isn’t pumping enough blood forward. Pressure builds in the lungs blood vessels and eventually forces fluids from the vessels into the body’s tissues.”
As Karlie and I talked, Tomasa and Maria listed, studying our facial expressions.
“How old are you?” I asked Grandma.
“Ninety-four” she said, with THE SWEETEST SMILE.
Her daughter motioned to us with a grin and whispered, “She’s 91.”
What was supposed to be a 10-15 minute visit, lasted over an hour. As we talked with mother and daughter, Karlie explained that Maria’s mom really needed to see a doctor so we could know for sure how to help.
“Have you been to the National Hospital?” I asked.
“No. Truthfully, she can’t walk. We can’t get her there.”
Karlie told me that if it’s Congestive Heart Failure, there are medications that would really help her feel better.
“We’d really like your mom to see a private doctor.”
“We don’t have any money. We’re about to lose this house. I don’t know where we’ll live.” (In a fraction of a moment, the onion had been cut in half. We wouldn’t be slowly peeling layers today.)
“WHAT? What do you mean?” I was sure I misunderstood.
Maria went on to explain that she took a loan out on her house for Q15,000. That’s the equivalent of $2,000 and an insane amount of money in a Guatemalan village.
She continued, “With the interest, the loan is now Q70,000” (that’s almost $10,000).
She also explained that she’s prayed and cried out to God. She held a vigil at her home, which is usually done with the church and includes praying through the night, sometimes lasting 8 hours.
“I went back to the lender and thanks to God, they lowered the loan to Q30,000 (about $4,000). I have to pay Q500 a week or they’ll take our home.”
Maria didn’t cry but her tears tried to escape. They were leaning over the edge, ready to drop.
“Maria, what did you need the loan for?” I knew it was none of my business but I couldn’t help it. I had to ask.
“My daughters friend said she was desperate. She said that if I put up the title to my house for the loan, she would pay me back in 20 days. And for doing that she would pay me Q500 (about $65).”
She continued, “That was 7 years ago. She just disappeared.”
Silence. No one talked. I looked at Karlie and then I looked down at the concrete floor. I had no words.
Maria told us that to pay Q500 every week, she buys used clothes for Q1 (.14) each and sells them for Q2.
“WHERE DO YOU SELL THEM?”
“I walk house to house, knocking on doors.”
Maria is trying to pay a $4,000 debt, .14 cents at a time. She’s trying to pay a debt for money that she’s never seen. She obviously can’t pay $20 for her mom to see a doctor and she can’t pay for the medications that she’ll surely need.
As Karlie and I sat with her momma and made an appointment to pick her up to see our doctor, she came back with sweet bread and a glass of juice. I’m sure their cupboards were bare so she probably ran down the dirt road to a little tienda to buy the bread.
I wonder what was she thinking, as she scooted the coins around in her tiny purse?
“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:44
I believe that every day Love asks us to peel back the layers of the onion. Love asks us to KNOW our neighbor so we can LOVE our neighbor. If we’re constantly on our phones we won’t even notice the opportunities, all around us.
“How are you?”
“No really, how ARE you?”
“What are you struggling with?”
“How are your kids?”
“How’s your husband?”
“How’s your health?”
“Let’s grab coffee.”
“How can I pray for you?”
“Call me. I’m here for you.”
“I love you.”
Or, we can keep our nose buried in our phone and skip the onion isle all together. Love is a choice.
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