Jama Ecuador – My creative mind immediately painted the room’s interior walls with vibrant colors. In seconds, that easily-accessed area of my imagination organized what was inside, traveled to the market and returned with tossed-aside crates previously used for transporting fruits and vegetables. In another direction, my mind found discarded boards from construction projects, which could be altered to make shelves.
Click, click, click – My imagination zoomed with ideas. It would almost work for a temporary studio… But – wait… water.. .a sink… a bathroom.
“Perdon,” I asked with an awkward approach, “Do you have a bathroom? Water?”
He pointed across the street to the public facilities.
I was not looking for a studio, but was visiting privately with Marcos at his request. My mind had made those imaginary observations, and I wondered if friends and I might be able to organize a one-day ‘makeover’ in his behalf.
“Do they charge you each time you use their bathroom?”
He nodded. Twenty five cents.
“Late at night?”
No, he shook his head, “I go around the back.”
We were both silent as I pondered the quiet interiors of my own soul and wondered what that must be like.
“When you’re sick. Or eat bad food? Diarrhea -”
He grimaced and gave a slight shrug.
The truly miserable have a timbre in their voices strong enough to erase smiles from the faces and souls of the contented. – Jerome
I felt I was intruding, yet for some reason Marcos reaches out as if invisible threads prompt him to call to me on the street – maybe with hopes that I can help him find ways out of his maze.
His leg, weakened from earthquake injuries, bears scars, and he often loses balance when he shifts his weight from one foot to the other. He doesn’t want to be walking in these shoes; he wants to be independent.
There are times when Life’s challenges help one to grow, and there are times that are borderline desperation. If someone asks for your help, isn’t there a moral obligation for empathy?
Years ago while walking a sunny Quito street on a quiet Sunday morning, a friend and I passed a man walking in the other direction. Our eyes met, and in his eyes I saw that emotion of desperation. He was not drunk or with hangover. He had dignity. After we passed, he asked in English, “Excuse me, but could you spare a few cents for a cup of coffee?” I had little, yet I reached in my pocket and shared the dollar or so in change. “Bless you,” he said and bowed his head as if embarrassed to have asked.
Marcos and others have little ‘Voz-voice’, and witnessing their humble attempts to move on can be heart wrenching. Through this post, I am also trying to sort through my own troubled thoughts – how does one help someone like Marcos or the hundreds of others who share different-yet-similar histories.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
Marcos mentioned basic food costs, which were basic and not out of line.
A cup of coffee and token food to start the day, Two dollars. Almuerzo,/lunch special, Three dollars. Something at the end of the day, three to five dollars. Ten dollars a day for food times two if his son stays under his wing. Presently his son and mother are staying with his mother-in-law.
That ice-cream cart that brought him about eight dollars a day in sales? The municipality ‘closed it down.’ My heart did a little flip as I struggled with warring emotions. Anger, I realized, does have positive rewards; if not allowed to consume the psyche, it can ignite action…
There is always more misery among the lower classes than there is humanity in the higher. VICTOR HUGO, Les Misérables
He has written letters. Officials have listened to his story, but so far there has been little help.
I calculated how many personal friends of mine across the globe might spare ten dollars. If even twenty people contributed twenty dollars, that would give him relief. I thought of the thousands of churches that pass the plate every Sunday. Would some of those churches pass a plate in Marcos’ behalf?
“Yes!- Yes,” I thought, but if they don’t know about Marcos, they certainly cannot help.
Worldwide, there are so many people who are suffering, dealing with unexpected life-altering circumstances. Marcos represents only one, yet his life matters, as do the lives of every person on the planet. Sometimes we forget those details when our own lives are sunny.
Over a year later, the rains have not washed away the grief that still permeates this sweet town. A visit to the cemetery yesterday confirmed that those who died are still treasured and remembered with deep affection. Beautiful flowers adorned many sites while candles dotted the muddy pathways and burned with unspoken symbols of love. There was a heavy sadness that I physically felt as I offered condolences to some of the survivors…
Marcos gave me a copy of his official request for help – and a telephone number if someone wants to speak to him – in Spanish – directly. Also in hand is the information for sending a donation through MoneyGram. Through MoneyGram, one can trust that the money would be sent straight to Marcos. He would have to travel north to Pedernales or down the coast to San Vicente or Baha de Caraquez, but he would be thrilled to know that Angels were at work in his behalf. Leave a comment or write me at email@example.com and I’ll pass that information to you or your group.
Several months ago a few dear friends made contributions, which were accepted with sobering appreciation. Thank you again for illustrating the kindness of strangers..
A few days ago, as in ‘old times’ Marcos was sweeping the sidewalk in front of his sister’s just-opened store, and I was pleased to witness what seemed like progress. I introduced him to a friend, who then purchased items from the store.
With sensitivity I said to Marcos, “I have paints with me, and when it’s convenient, I’d like to help with the lettering at the cemetery.”
His eyes filled with tears, and after a brief pause, we discussed options…. then he asked to speak to me and shared what I’ve just shared via this post.
He goes to the cemetery daily, as would I if my spouse and three children had a permanent residence there. He tends not only their final resting places, but many more – e
ven especially the neglected and forgotten ones.
I have thought about Marcos and many others that are existing; for various reasons they don’t meet the criteria for receiving help, or maybe they refuse to live in one of the petite ‘relief-house’ communities. Even in poverty there is dignity. I think about what it would be like to have little hope; of having physical handicaps wrought from the earthquake and having limited options for work. I think of Hugo’s Les Miserabes.
On a bitterly cold day in February 1846, the French writer Victor Hugo was on his way to work when he saw something that affected him profoundly.
A thin young man with a loaf of bread under his arm was being led away by police. Bystanders said he was being arrested for stealing the loaf. He was dressed in mud-spattered clothes, his bare feet thrust into clogs, his ankles wrapped in bloodied rags in lieu of stockings.
“It made me think,” wrote Hugo. “The man was no longer a man in my eyes but the specter of la misère, of poverty.” NINA MARTYRIS – NPR – Let them Eat Bread; the Theft that Helped Inspire ‘Les Miserables’
Centuries might pass, but mankind’ faces the same challenges. Good and Evil. Rich and Poor. Contentment and Suffering. Wellness and Sickness. Apathy and Action.. Hunger and Gluttony. Sometimes experiencing both extremes helps us to understand the balance. There is also thirst… a thirst for water, for compassion, for unconditional love and acceptance from our fellow man — and acknowledgement that we are all in this together.
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” — Albert Einstein,
Meanwhile, construction of a new bridge on the edge of town continues most every day and night. Proposed to cost 8.8 million dollars, it is visually wounding to many who witness the mammoth project. A tiny percent of that money could help many who live a stone’s toss in the distance.
Victor Hugo’s words offer wisdom:
“When the nettle is young, the leaves make excellent greens; when it grows old it has filaments and fibers like hemp and flax. Cloth made from the nettle is as good as that made from hemp. Chopped up, the nettle is good for poultry; pounded, it is good for horned cattle. The seed of the nettle mixed with the fodder of animals gives a luster to their skin; the root, mixed with salt, produces a beautiful yellow dye. It makes, however, excellent hay, as it can be cut twice in a season. And what does the nettle need? very little soil, no care, no culture; except that the seeds fall as fast as they ripen, and it is difficult to gather them; that is all. If we would take a little pains, the nettle would be useful; we neglect it, and it becomes harmful. Then we kill it. How much men are like the nettle! My friends, remember this, that there are no weeds, and no worthless men, there are only bad farmers.” ― Victor Hugo
With great interest and an open heart, I would appreciate your suggestions and feedback. Thanks everyone, and may the week smile on you.