The anti-dengue fever crew has been out and about for the last few weeks in Melaque.
The fear of violence in our area of Mexico has always been overblown. But the possibility of catching dengue fever is a reality. Both visitors and residents are potential victims.
The most common version of the disease (there are four) is not life-threatening. But if you are infected with the virus, death looks like an easy out.
The most obvious symptom is in the name. Fever. But that is just the start. The skin develops a rash. Then come the headaches. And then excruciating pain in the muscles and joints. From that symptom, it gains its nickname -- breakbone fever.
And who brings this delightful package of symptoms to us? Señora Aedes aegypti. Now, I know that sounds like a Verdi opera (or an Elton John musical). But it isn't.
It is the same mosquito that almost kept the Panama Canal from being built. As the carrier of yellow fever. These days, its favorite gift to mankind is dengue fever.
They are a clever lot. Preferring to bite around the ankles where it is difficult for we elderly to get at them. The fact that they feed all day and all night gives them plenty of time to search for the unguarded, toxic-free patch of skin. The mosquito is easily identified by the white spots on their knees.
To assist us in our fight against the dreaded mosquito, the health department sends out groups of earnest young people to search each home for mosquito breeding spots. If they find one, they will either dump the water or toss in a cheesecloth-wrapped bit of chemical warfare to keep he mosquito parents childless.
I appreciate the effort. And I think it does some good. But like most governmental programs, the inspectors grab the low-lying fruit.
In my case, tipping out the water in the fountain is rather meaningless when I can look out and see acres of prime mosquito breeding ground in the laguna. Of course, nothing is done about that.
And it is a shame. Because I know plenty of people around here who have been visited with the disease.
I thought we had another. A friend has been in bed for a week with terrible body pain. She thought it would pass. But the pain worsened enough she decided to go to the hospital.
She does not have dengue, but it is bad. Bad enough that she is flying north for surgery. While she is in the hospital, her friends are packing her bags and gathering her documents for a flight later today.
When I received the telephone call, the first word out of my mouth was -- Wow! Maybe it was because I have been reading Anne Lamott's Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. As a result, I have been thinking of how better the world would be if we actually brought glasses of water to the thirsty -- or let other people go first in line -- or simply helped a friend, even if you were having one of those meltdown days in your life, because your friend needs a hand right now and that is more important than your hurt -- no matter how real it is.
I felt one of those lumps in the back of my throat. Guys know the feeling. It is the early warning system that lets us throw up walls to avoid any outward signs of emotion. But it was there nonetheless.
Because all of a sudden I felt gratitude that these caring women, who have their own concerns, have dropped everything to help. When help was needed.
And I prayed a prayer of help (with peace and contentment), a prayer of thanks for the joy these women were spreading, and a prayer of wow! -- that all this was playing out in front of my life.
When people ask me why I have faith, I just need to point them to moments like this.