Her hugs were squeezy-tight and her eyes were a dancing deep chocolate brown. Her name was Azul, Spanish for blue, like the near by ocean at Playa Bonita. She didn’t take long to steal my heart as we spent the week together…and she was beautiful as she hung on to my leg and begged me to take her ‘back’ with me.
Tonight she sat across the table in the sanctuary of Familia de Dios, sandwiched between her 9 year old brother Luis, and one of the Joni and Friends interns who was helping her uncle with his dinner. We had gotten to know her 3 uncles during that week and discovered that her uncle Israel LOVED his coffee. He sat with dignity in his wheelchair, with a contented face…despite the too big chair with no foot pedals to rest his tightened limbs, and eyes that were clouded over with cataracts making it hard to see his fork.
His brother Miguel sat across the table, a smile brighter than the Mexican sun spread all across his face as he dug into the potatoes and salad. He didn’t say much but his smile said it all.
As I talked with the petite 24 year old across the table, mother to Azul, Luis, and a chubby 2 year old Ian, the bits and pieces of their story came together. Larissa had grown up with 3 brothers with special needs, and had married young, having 3 beautiful children of her own. Her mother had passed away from HIV just one month before leaving Larissa and her 3 brothers, one in a wheelchair needing complete care, one unable to speak, and the other with learning challenges. So she had picked up her little family and moved in to their home in the barrio to care for her brothers. Their father works nights as a security guard at the hospital so he can’t care for his sons, but he bikes the sandy road to their house to join in for meals.
We had dropped the kids off a few days before at a small concrete building, and Miguel
had announced with so much pride ‘Este es mi casa! This is my home!’
Eight people. In a small, hot, concrete house. With no bathroom. No toilet, no bath to bathe Israel’s stiff muscles.
What was I supposed to say? Words didn’t seem to encompass that kind of hard.
So I listened. I shared that my dad had also passed away a few years back.
The servers brought a second plate of salted beef and mashed potatoes and mango juice, and treated them like VIP guests. The Pastor came and warmly greeted them, finding out ways the church could help provide for them, realizing they had mutual connections as they chatted. One of the Joni and Friends interns helped to feed Israel, and make sure his coffee wasn’t too hot, and another ran around with the chubby cheeked Ian, laughing and delighting in his giggles.
We pointed to their photos in the slideshow as the music played, and Miguel’s smile got even bigger.
Do we understand? We can try…but we don’t. We were able to shower off the grime of the 100 degree Mexican humidity every day when we returned to our rooms. I have 3 bathrooms in my house and my bedroom alone would fit their entire kitchen and living area.
But Love speaks when our words fail. When our lives seem a world apart and it just doesn’t seem fair
Larissa hugged me tight as she said good bye, and I felt honoured, so privileged to have met this courageous, beautiful soul. I shared that she was doing a wonderful thing in caring for her brothers, and that we ALL had been so blessed by our time with them.
Seeing Miguel showering sunshine, feeling his tight hugs that brightened everybody’s
day. I’m pretty sure his smile had hit instagram before our heads hit the pillow…sharing
with friends and family how much Joy he brought to the day.
Seeing Israel’s face beaming when he arrived in the morning, ready to spend the day with his new friend Ethan, one of the Joni and Friends interns. And hearing his “GRACIAS” said with effort through tight lips as we pushed his wheelchair over the sandy road to his house with no front door.
‘THANK YOU.’ A word that I often forget to say even though I have so much.
And I come back to the words of Luke 14, to the words that inspired this special dinner tonight… ‘Bring them in, that my house will be FULL….and YOU will be blessed.’
Israel, we need to see your dignity shining through your pain. Miguel, we need your smile that speaks more than words. We need the courage of your care-giving Larissa. Azul we need your squeezy tight hugs.
Or God’s house is not full…and WE are missing out.