Thursday, March 29, 2012

hand to heart

Whenever I start getting a bit smug about my life in Mexico, I can count on my blogger pal Laurie of Honduras Gumbo to yank me back to reality.

Laurie put aside her life in New Orleans to move to Honduras -- and share her faith with her neighbors.  She then relates some of her experiences to us.  How the ground is rocky.  How the need is great.  And what she is doing to meet needs one hand at a time.

I did not come to Mexico on a faith mission.  But my faith travels wherever I go.

That is why I was not too surprised, knowing what my day held in store, to read this sentence as part of my morning devotional: "For there will always be poor people in the land. That is why I am giving you this order, ‘You must open your hand to your poor and needy brother in your land.’"*

Yesterday I volunteered to assist our church's Community Services Committee with food distribution to some of the poorer families in the area. 

Poor can be a relative term.  Most of the "poor" in Canada and The States would not be considered poor here.  For various reasons, with their assets, they could lead a comfortable life in my little village.

Like most economists, Jorge Castañeda struggled in Mañana Forever?: Mexico and the Mexicans to define the line between poor and middle class in Mexico.  It is a difficult line to draw. 

Most of my friends in Oregon would probably call my immediate neighbors poor.  But my neighbors would call themselves middle class.  They have a roof over their heads.  Food.  Electricity.  And enough excess income to purchase stoves, refrigerators, televisions, mobile telephones, and vehicles.

But there is absolute poverty nearby.  Where there is no excess income.  Including some of our neighbors around the church.

Because the church has limited resources, we try to direct it to families who need it most.  Or as the Victorians would say: "the deserving poor."  The trick is in the winnowing.

We are lucky enough to have established a working relationship with the local office of DIF -- the agency responsible for "focuses on strengthening and developing the welfare of the Mexican families."  To use their phrase.

A DIF agent accompanied us to today as we deliverered dispensas -- food bags containing staple foods for family meals -- in Villa Obregon (around the church) and in Pinal Villa (where the Indian School is located).  Based on her information, she showed us where to leave the food bags.

I have seen areas in Mexico where the people are poorer than the people we saw today.  But those we saw were poor enough.  Poor enough that every person who received a bag was thankful.

None of the bags will deliver these families from their poverty.  But it will stave off hunger tonight and tomorrow -- and maybe the next day.

And the families will know that their neighbors, in their faith, opened their hands to them.  Out of love.  To nurture their souls with kindness.
* - Deuteronomy 15:11


Mcotton said...

Thank you, Steve for reminding us to open our hearts and hands to the needy. 

Laurie Matherne said...

Well written, Steve. You give me far more credit than I deserve. 

Muycontento said...

Too bad Castañeda didn't come back and run for president. He would have had a good chance.

Felipe Zapata said...

You have touched on an interesting point. Most people over the border have one notion of poverty, and in Mexico there is another. People up north look down here and see poverty all over the place while actually we Mexicans often simply live differently.

Steve Cotton said...

 Sometimes we do not know the effect we have on others.

Steve Cotton said...

 And to perhaps plant a seed here and there.

Steve Cotton said...

 It took me some time to realize my immediate neighbors were far more self-sufficient than I first thought.  Different country.  Different expectations.

Steve Cotton said...

He would certainly have made an interesting candidate.

Laurie Matherne said...

Your choice of photos is interesting, too. They are not poor by Honduran standards. The adults are overweight. How could that be truly poor by standards in our part of the world? Mexico is far more affluent than I previously thought judging by your account of social services, too. If one is hungry in Honduras, the government cannot or will not help. Over 25% of Hondurans are hungry or malnourished. Yes, we have overweight poor people but none like that in my program. 

Steve Cotton said...

You are correct.  Mexico's poor are generally better off than what you have written of the poor in Honduras.