On a study tour to learn about the effects of various U.S. policies on hunger in developing nations, as exemplified by Guatemala and Nicaragua, I was awakened to some very harsh realities. Our group visited a community outside Guatemala City. Our first stop was a small clinic. We were seated on benches listening to an American nurse explain patients’ ailments and what services were able to be provided. The other staff was helping the patients meantime. A women sitting on a bench in front of me began to have a seizure and as she fell to the floor, the nurse and others ran to her. After the commotion and apparent stabilization of the woman, the speaker resumed her talk but was furious in some way.
She grabbed a piece of paper from her back pocket and waved it around in front of us. “THIS, “she shouted, “THIS is a prescription for anti-seizure meds but I can’t get it filled because the medicine is not available here. THIS is what we face every day!” No access, no money, no transportation… I was stunned and in shame. Back in Michigan, our dog Skipper suffered seizures and we were able to dutifully administer his daily very low-cost pills. When I thought of this woman and compared her life to our dog, I was appalled at the extreme difference.
After the clinic visit we strolled through the community. I encountered three women sitting on the side of the pathway by a water tap. Eager to try my newly acquired Spanish, I greeted them and later asked them what they were doing (though not so directly). They said they were waiting for water. Their answer to my, “When will it come?” was that they didn’t know, maybe later today, maybe not.
La Esperanza, meaning Hope, was the hillside community where they lived. Hope that was no running water or sanitation, homes we might injudiciously call shacks, no caretakers for the children, left alone during the day if their parent or parents worked, etc.
There I witnessed cordiality, perseverance, dedication, frustration, grinding poverty, and most importantly hope.
What rigors of life seen in others have given you hope or strength? What hope can we encourage in others? Have you considered advocacy or accompaniment?
Our hope comes from our faith in God, ever rich and ever present. See, too, the book I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian from Guatemala by the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Barbara Miller, a member of the churchwide executive board, lives in Washington, Mich.
Photo by Linda Post Bushkofsky. Used with permission.