Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Witnessing life

Karla, Nelson, David y Gloria

I was starting my blogs with idioms but I ran out. I finally have a new one. When you are talking about doing hard work in present, past or future tense, you say “yucca” while wiping your hand across your forehead (like you are wiping sweat). Yes, it’s yucca the vegetable similar to potato. It was explained to me that harvesting yucca is very, very hard because of the size and depths of the roots you are pulling out of the ground. When you do the action and say the word, people know what you mean. I count myself lucky that we don’t grow yucca in El Maizal, yet.


Last month our good friend Neslon Caranza, our companero, our constant source of help during our transition to our new country and home, accompanied us to the City of Sonsanate for some shopping. We joke that he is our personal security guard although in reality, he actually is. In previous years he worked as a security guard in San Salvador and Acajutla. As we shopped and chatted we noticed his demeanor was different. When we finally asked him about it he said he was infermo (sick). We left the mall and headed home, it’s a two bus trip that takes an hour, mas y menos (more or less). By the time we got to the terminal for our transfer he was burning up. When we finally arrived home, he was walking in extreme pain.


We went to visit him the following day and his family told us he was at the Hospital. Luckily we saw him when he returned on the bus that evening. He was still sick and was tired from the bus rides. Keep in mind that as sick as he was he took 4 buses and spent over 2 hours on buses today just to see the Doctor and return home.  The Hospital wanted him to be admitted but he doesn’t have the money for that. He had to return home with medicine and descanso (rest). He has problems with his kidneys diagnosed as a severe infection. One of the problems is that healthcare is limited for the poor. They can go to the free clinics but they have little to no medicines or equipment to help diagnose what they are seeing. The poor can go to the better hospitals but then they don’t have the money to take advantage of the better medicines, testing and certainly can’t afford to be hospitalized. It’s a vicious circle that doesn’t help much at all unless you have insurance or have personal wealth. In our new country neither is common for most people.


He’s a young man only 35 but this is a common medical problem for men in El Salvador and can have deadly consequences. For instance he is one of 3 friends that we know who is dealing with this and we’ve only been here 7 months, they are just the ones we know about. A man like Nelson makes his living off the land like many men in this country. It requires hard physical work to be conducted in the very hot sun. Dehydration is a constant issue and many times the water they drink is not clean.  On top of that they are exposed to the toxic effects of herbicides and insecticides that are used with little regard to its exposure to the workers. They themselves don’t always understand the dangers of handling these materials with no safety equipment like gloves or masks to filter out the


Our lives here are a great experience but we’re not here to soak in the sights and sounds. One of the things we have done is become part of the community and be their friends. It all sounds great and it is until you realize you don’t just experience and see the good things. It’s also about witnessing life in poverty, the structural injustices that deprive our friends of basic human rights (including healthcare) and knowing it just doesn’t have to be with way. There’s a feeling of helplessness in the face of these man made situations our world puts people in, be it here in El Maizal or Worcester, MA.


I know at home what a flashpoint universal healthcare is but just put the dollars aside for one minute and think about the suffering that no healthcare causes. These are real people that we impose suffering on so casually, when we protect our tax dollars before we provide healthcare to the least of those in society.


Matthew 25:40

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'




Tom & Dianne

1 comment:

  1. Yucca. Indeed. Hospitals, funerals and harsh realities... You are privy to some very painful experiences there. Please know that we are praying for you both AND for the people of El Maizal.
    Not long ago, in Episcopal Cafe, I read the following, with grateful thoughts of you:
    "I was hungry and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger. Thank you.
    I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel in the cellar and prayed for my release.
    I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
    I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
    I was homeless and you preached to me about the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
    I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me.
    Christian, you seem so holy; so close to God But I'm still very hungry, and lonely, and cold...
    John Stott wrote this based on a passage from Matthew 25.