It turns out that there are other types of orphans I had not previously known about.
I’ve learned that there is such a thing as a temporarily orphaned family.
These are families or individuals from faraway and neighbouring pueblos who normally have a good bed (a hammock), a roof (palapa style, made from palm leaves), food to eat (cochinita pibil tacos and tortas) and perhaps a regular paying job (road construction, house cleaning, tortilla making). The reason they are orphaned is that they are living on the streets around the public Hospital H’Oran in Merida, trying to get medical assistance for a loved one while they wait outside. There are no big hospitals or sophisticated clinics down the road when you live in a pueblo, pueblito or comisaria. These people travel for hours by bus to get here, and they don’t leave until they have received treatment or worse, until someone’s life has passed.
There are no Ronald MacDonald houses here. No support homes for families of cancer treatment. No free yoga at dusk. These families survive on the streets, eating what meals might be served on a given night by a warm hearted church, soccer team or charity organization. On a good week, there might be a meal every night.
I don’t want to get you down – in fact let me tell you that at one point during the evening, as we served over 300 pancake dinners with the kids and others from C-Quest, I thought I might be back at the UT campus on a Friday night, on the quad. After most had eaten, a group of roughly 40 gathered around one guy and a guitar, dancing and singing a glad sounding i-yi-yi-yi song. They were having a good time.
Normally I would be the type to grab Kary and the kids and go up and join them, but this night, we had a different place to be.
One family stayed behind, choosing instead to stay close to pancake central, as we continued to feed a dwindling line of late diners. It was easy to see that their situation was perhaps a little more painful.
While Kary, Ryan and Jacqueline stayed on the cook line, Rachel and I went over to meet the family of 4 year old Fatima, from the neighbouring state of Quintana Roo. This family of 5 was homeless and on the street last time Pastor Miguel saw them. This night, they explained that they had found a place to sleep, a room, somewhere near the hospital. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Fatima had had an operation on her feet, and either was or became paralyzed as a result of the operation. Now her lower back is inflected, black and blue and curved strangely. Her father explained that they needed a special prescription creme but that they couldn’t afford it. Pastor Miguel stepped in to speak to the father in Spanish, consulted with Gary, Kary and Joanne, and before I knew it, Kary, Miguel and the father walked off to find the nearest pharmacy. I sure hope that cream brings at least a little bit of relief to this girl.
Please allow me to end on a positive note. This little girl Fatima was a bundle of smiles. Rachel took a liking to and hung out with her for quite some time, unwrapping little candies for her to enjoy and making her laugh. She never looked sad at all. At one point I took this photo on my phone and showed it to her. She immediately lit up saying “Me gusta mi silla , me gusta mi silla!” — which means “I like my chair, I like my chair!” Maybe she had never seen herself in her wheelchair until that moment, I’m not sure. She sure liked the looks of it.
Something to think about for the rest of us. A pretty positive outlook for such a little chica.