Laura and I had a tremendous time in our two weeks back home in MA, NY and CT. We were both overwhelmed with the abundance of stuff in the US. It’s all relative I suppose, because I never really gave much thought to this material abundance while living in the US. But living here with a great deal less, it seems that it’s a lot easier to discern what has value and what is really just window dressing. Decorations are nice, but a lot of decorations are distracting. I was just amazed to sit in rooms that were filled with books, pictures, wall hangings, furniture, knickknacks, Christmas cards, papers, coasters, and napkins, and I could go on all day. Here, we feel extremely blessed if we utilize a public bathroom and find that it is actually stocked with toilet paper. Laura and I cut our paper napkins in half because paper products are so expensive. Laura was overwhelmed to watch TV, something we have probably only done once or twice since coming to Honduras. The commercials go on forever. Everything is sold, everything has a price, and everything must be owned and displayed. We both must have felt like we were in a deluge of things, and I suppose this was the reason why we decided it was time to get rid of our car. The process of getting rid of our car, however, only served to remind us that we too have many unnecessary things. We had to find the title to the car. The title of the car, unfortunately, was packed away in our ten by ten by ten storage unit. We spent almost an entire morning swimming through our stuff to find the title. It was, of course, encased with a bunch of other important papers in the farthest corner of the storage unit in the very last box we rifled through. As I climbed over furniture and passed box after box to Laura standing in the hall, I found myself becoming more angry and frustrated. All this stuff and my need to manage it was keeping me away from the real reason why we had come back home. We had come back home to meet our family and friends, to spend some quality time with them, to engage, and to share. Yet here we were climbing over a mountain of stuff that had already lost whatever value I had assigned to it.
Gratefully however, we did manage to clear away the many distractions of our material culture to see family and friends and for this our trip had great importance. We saw Laura’s children and her family. We probably depended more on Laura’s mother and sister than anyone else to provide us with generous hospitality. We passed two days in upstate NY to search out my brother and his children and their families. We spent precious time with very close friends. Still, we did not see everyone we hoped to have seen. The ones with whom we shared meals and conversation made us feel honored, loved, and extraordinarily rich. At the end of our two weeks, we felt energized and enthusiastic to return.
Our return was something of a maelstrom. The flight was uneventful, though we had feared the bitter cold might have caused delays. One of our vans picked us up at the airport and within three hours Laura and I were back in our humble abode in Nueva Esperanza. We went to bed at 8 PM and arose at midnight. At 12:45 AM we were picked up again in the same van by the same driver to begin our trek across the country to La Ceiba on the North Coast. There we would retrieve the first of the eight children from their Christmas/New Year vacation with families. We would not return until 9:30 PM that evening. Physically and emotionally this was one of the most draining experiences in my life. The images of the day are vividly fixed in my mind’s eye. At 7:00 AM, we searched for one ten-year old girl along the pathways in a desperately poor barrio because we didn’t know her house and the telephone number no longer worked. We luckily, literally, ran into her as she too was searching for us. We later stopped for about half an hour to enjoy a beautiful beach in the resort town of Tela. Laura and two boys enjoyed jumping in and out of the waves. Our second to the last stop was at a gas station along the highway in a city about an hour and a half south of Tegucigalpa. We would meet up with two brothers there who were coming by bus from a mountain town a couple of hours away. They were accompanied by an uncle, his girlfriend, and another aunt. They arrived at the gas station an hour after we had. Night was beginning to descend. We were all extremely tired and the van was already jammed up. The family obviously sincerely loved these two young brothers, but it was equally obvious that they had little means to adequately care for them. The older brother had his head low and wouldn’t greet us or say goodbye to his family. He refused to get into the van. His uncle had to corral him and force him into the van. We needed to physically contain him as he squirmed and struggled to get out even after we started down the highway. For the next hour and a half he wailed and cried out over and over for his family. Finally, he accepted Laura’s gentle embrace and fell asleep in her arms. The trip showed me nothing of the materialism I had only days earlier been so frustrated with in the US. It did show me everything about the incomparable value of family and relationship; how beautiful it is when it is present and how hopelessly sad when it is lost. Could we do anything more meaningful with our lives than to honor, secure, and sustain relationships of love?
This morning the director of Montaña de Luz, the operations manager, the director of the Tias, the nurse, the psychologist, and Laura and I met to discuss the experiences of the children with their families over the last few weeks. We discussed some of the children I mentioned in the last paragraph. What we came away with was that our work with these children and their families, and our work to help these children establish intimate relationships of integrity, is the hardest, yet most important, work that we will ever do. Laura and I were very pleased. This was why we came here. This is how we will be enriched with treasures. We are