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Do We Have Enough?

Dr. Michael Litrel volunteers in Honduras photo
by Michael Litrel, MD, FACOG, FPMRS

When my son Tyler was fifteen, I brought him with me on a church mission trip to Honduras. It seemed an inspired idea: I was seized with a vision of him forsaking his Xbox for a transformative week of caring for poor people in a third world country.

Twenty of us boarded the plane headed for rural Central America. Our physical task was to repair homes. Our spiritual task was to learn and teach about God’s love.

Tyler was shocked by the poverty. Forty people lived in the remote village in mud and stick huts. They had no running water or electricity. Wandering the village were dogs so emaciated you could count each rib.

Over the days that followed, Tyler took me to the side several times to sort through his feelings. How could we have so much at home when others in the world have so little?

I was proud of him, growing up, asking the right questions… But as it turned out, he was still an obtuse adolescent. On the last day, we faced a grueling three-mile hike through the steaming jungle to the work site. Tyler assured me he had filled all our water bottles. But when we arrived, I discovered only three of the eight bottles were full. Tyler had gotten lazy and just hadn’t bothered.

I was livid. We had an entire afternoon of physical labor ahead. Don’t you realize we have four THOUSAND pounds of cement to mix? How can we work without water? Blah, blah, blah…

I’m sorry, DAD!!! I GET it! Tyler threw up his hands in exasperation.

I could tell Tyler was more angry than sorry. But I stopped and sulked away, muttering dark thoughts under my breath. I had been proud that Tyler had chosen to come – the youngest in the group by five years. Heaven knows it was gratifying to see his hands finally off the game controller and wielding a shovel full of dirt.

But I didn’t want to hear any adolescent fibs about filling water bottles.

Our project was a hut with a dirt floor, to be replaced with cement. Twenty bags of mix had already been carried to the site. The choice of tasks were these: carry buckets of water from the stream, mix the cement on the ground, carry the wet cement into the hut, or lay down the floor. There were eight of us. It was back-breaking work.

Holding water in cupped hands photoThree hours later, we lay exhausted under the hot equatorial sun. A feeling of discouragement began to creep over us. The floor was only a third done, and we were running out of both cement and energy.

I slumped on a stool. A small village girl named Amalia crept quietly next to me. Her dress was worn, her face dirty, but her smile was glowing. She was one of eight children who lived in this tiny hut. A cement floor would keep her young body off the ground at night.

Tyler rested motionless, his back against a tree. His work efforts had been listless at best. But I kept my criticism to myself. At least he was here.

Just when the job seemed hopeless, a few neighboring villagers arrived to help. Recharged, we resumed mixing cement, carrying bucket after bucket into the hut. Somehow, we now had so much that we could not only cover the entire dirt floor but even make a front porch.

Remarkably, too, our water bottles never ran out. Tyler and I had enough to last all afternoon.

It was a strange and wonderful day in Honduras. Tyler and I had partaken in a kind of miracle: plenty of cement, a floor for Amalia, and even enough water.

For me, it was a spiritual reminder that we are always given enough – an ironic lesson to learn while helping a family whose belongings could fit in the trunk of my car.

It was only later, as I was falling asleep, that I figured out – Tyler had left all the water for me.

Dr. Michael Litrel photo

Excerpted from Dr. Litrel and his wife Ann’s book of “he-said, she-said” stories about love and family.  A MisMatch Made In Heaven: Surviving True Love, Children, and Other Blessings In Disguise is available in the office, and online at www.createspace.com/4229812

 

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