As we left the US, things seemed as they always do...
Then, when you look to the right, you see the wall separating the US and Mexico...the wall that separates us.
As I turned from the wall to the neighborhood that we were driving in, it was obvious that what separates us is much more...
We have more and they have less. I guess that is a simple statement and honestly when you pick it apart, it is not simple at all. We have more stuff, more money, more food, more conveniences, more doors and windows to shield us from the cold. We have more medical care, more cars that run and more electricity. So, yes...we have more. They have less...of all the things I mentioned.
But, do they really have less? Sometimes I wonder.
Every year, I head across the border to build a house. But, in my mind, I head across for other reasons...all having to do with what I want. This year, I went because I wanted to hang with my college boy and I knew that if I was there, he would have to talk to me. I had no plans of connecting with families or seeing anything I haven't seen before. You see, I have been doing this since 1999 and know it all...
On Sunday, Jim and Howie and I went an scouted the site. It was in Anapra and is built on a land fill...a dump. The roads are cut through mounds of garbage and the smell is pungent. If you look down, you can see garbage...diapers and feminine napkins, tiles, glass and things that were thrown out. They have lost the sharp edges from people walking on the objects although if you listen when you walk...you can hear the crunch.
The site was right next to the home that some of the family lived already. They wanted it built close, so they could add on and be together. As we walked up, you could see they were not sure if it was true. These three gringos were coming to figure out how to give us a house? Jim smiled and used his limited spanish to assure them that indeed tomorrow morning, more gringos were coming to work.
I always wonder what the big deal is when we build an 11 x 14 house with two rooms, two windows and one door. But on Sunday, when I walked into the home they live in now...a 9 x 11 ish frame with a curtain dividing the house in half with two beds pushed together for 5 of the family members to sleep. On the other side from the beds was a stove and two plastic chairs to be the kitchen and living room...no windows and a curtain for a door. So yes, it is a big deal.
On Monday, we showed up...all 21 of us, to build. We had a 80ish dynamo and a 7 year old on our team. We were all there for our own reasons to build a house for a family. That was really all we knew. As the day went on, the family came over and spent time with us...not thanking us but wanting to help build the home that was to be theirs. They weren't looking to have it built and then look it over and move in...they wanted to help create it with us. As much as my rock hard heart didn't want to soften, to watch this family become more and more excited each day with this place to call home...it began to melt.
We framed walls, framed the roof, poured the concrete and smoothed it, drilled holes in the studs for the light and the ceiling fan, put chicken wire on the outside and insulated...the place was taking shape.
Then, Jesus, the father asked our group if we could go and visit his son and pray with him. I didn't think anything of it because I was busy but as the day wore on, we decided we could break and go. We piled in the vans and drove 15 blocks to a rented house where they live now while they wait. He told us that his son was ill and in bed and that he was depressed.
We arrived to find a 22 year old boy on his side with his eyes closed in a small room. On a table next to the bed was his "things", his dressings and things I am used to. We stood around and I kneeled next to him and began to ask about his condition. His mother told me that he was unable to walk anymore and was losing function in his left arm....and then she pulled back the covers and showed me his bedsores from being in bed for 6 months. She told me that she can't go out much because he is unable to be left alone and he needs her. She started to cry. I looked away and began to get angry...I felt so helpless.
I went into nurse mode, and asked a million questions about how she is caring for the sores, how she is keeping him off of the pressure points, about the plan of care for her boy. As she answered I realized where I was. I was in Juarez, Mexico where you don't get nurses to change dressings three days a week with fancy dressings and creams...you don't get cushions and wheel chairs to change the pressure on spots. In Juarez, you get to care for your boy as best you can with gatorade to put on dressings and pack in wounds because it says it has vitamins and minerals.
I slowed down and began to ask her son about pain and movement and things like that. He told me he has pain but can't afford the medication...ibuprofen...to help with it.
I was humbled by his mother who was like any of us...a mother who loved her boy deeply and wanted to do whatever it took to try to make him well and out of pain. I was humbled by the surroundings and the lack of medical care and information available to her to care for her boy.
On Wednesday night, we finished the house. It was beautiful and we were all excited. I couldn't get this boy off of my mind and went to the big grocery store to see what I could make for makeshift wound care to heal this boy. I found dressings, antibiotic ointment and things to help this boy's skin.
On Thursday, we had a huge party and gave the home to the family. It was a great day and the family was so happy. Then, we all went up to see the boy again and I got to give the mom all the presents I bought her so she could help her boy heal. We sat and I taught her everything I know about wound care and skin care and diet and healing. We gave them a cooler with cold cuts for protien and we held hands while we talked. Mothers who want the best for our boys do that. I told her she was doing a fantastic job caring for her boy and to keep doing what she was doing.
When it was time to leave, she cried and thanked us for caring about her boy. I told her that we are mothers and we love our boys no matter who we are and where we are from...we are the same.
We are mothers and fathers and family that loves deeply and wants only the best for our loves. We are the same yet we are different. In the US, we have dressings and help and medical care that is available if we need it...even when it is not the best. We have something.
But, at the end of the day, the family we built for was humble, thankful and joyful. They cried when we handed the keys over and they cried when we talked of their boy...but through the tears, you could feel the joy of life. The joy of having family around and the joy of being honored by caring for each other...
So I ask...who has more? Are there things we can learn from each other? While we toil away making money and buying the latest of this and that and worrying, they seem to accept what is and love each other. Isn't life really all about the people we love? I think because they live a hard life in so many ways, the joy they get from each other is apparent in all they do. So I ask again, who has more? Who deserves more? Just questions to ponder as we go....
Back to the wall...this is the tall wall that is to keep the mexicans from coming into the US. It goes on for miles and there are cameras and flood lights on our side and border patrol trucks at the ready...
What do I know about walls? If my boy needed care that I could not get here, or I had a home made of cardboard and pallets and was freezing, and tried everything I could do to change that in Mexico without luck...I would not rule out getting past that wall to a life where I was able to care for my family.
That is what I learned on this trip...we are the same yet different, sad yet joyful and we all want to care for our loves...
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,