Should I help? How? How much?

My husband Grant has written some great thoughts about how to help people when you live in a place that can overwhelm you with need – a place like Mexico, a place like our neighborhood.   I think he nailed it!  What do you think?

Sick of being asked for a handout every day? I wrestle constantly when I encounter people with needs looking for a handout—whether it is the guy with no legs on a hand peddle cart, or the woman with deformed legs being pushed in a wheel chair, or the woman and child begging on the bridge, or the guy yelling “hey mister how about today?” or “Can you loan me some money?” I constantly ask myself….”how much today? How much tomorrow? The change in my pocket?” “Do these people make more that the average person working at an average job in Mexico?”

Then there all the charities and the organizations—the ones for animals, for children, for seniors, for the handicapped, for orphans, for schools/kindergartens, for Christmas, for nature, for wildlife.….

And of course the special circumstances—”need money to go to my mother’s funeral, to have an operation, to buy a uniform for school, a dress for kindergarten graduation”, ……

When there are no social safety nets these questions will never go away. So I have narrowed it down to a few questions/thoughts for myself:

  • Will supporting this change a life profoundly? Or will the need always be there, never corrected? A medical operation that will allow someone to see, or to hear that now cannot—that is life changing. A surgery to rebuild the body so that it can work again is correcting a bad situation that will not repeat itself.
  • How responsible does this person need to be to correct this situation? Or are they a victim of things beyond their control? Giving to the wino or drug addict probably will assist them in not hitting bottom and being forced to change their life and get help. Giving to the orphanage that cares for abused and abandoned kids, who are in no way responsible for where they have found themselves may definitely help correct a bad situation. Giving to the kids forced by their parents to sell on the beach and streets so they do not have to work or because they want to buy alcohol – that is a mess—give the kids food and support an organization that gets kids off the street and into school.
  • If I help this person are they of a character to give back in the future to others or will what I give be wasted to no end, and will the need be perpetuated by lack of personal responsibility? Helping the mother that has repeatedly abandoned her kids leaving them hungry will not solve the problem. Reporting the problem to DIF (social services) may correct the problem. Supporting the relatives or organization that helps the kids also is very useful.
  • If I don’t give money, will this person find another way to meet the need? Don’t be the quick easy answer to someone else’s struggle. Maybe give them a small job so they don’t fall into begging…. or stealing….
  • Is there something here that will give me or others great personal satisfaction? Will seeing the child in the kindergarten dress (that looks like a wedding dress) give me happy memories and a feeling of satisfaction? Buy it. If not don’t.

So this is what I have decided:

  • Give the change in my pocket randomly to those who seem to be in a retracted long term need. ie. The guy with no legs, the crippled woman, etc.
  • Give what costs me little to the one that will probably squander it soon. ie. An old pair of beach shoes to the addict with no shoes. An old bed to the person who lost their’s from being kicked out of the last house for not paying rent…..
  • Save my larger amounts for those in legitimate emergencies or for those that will experience a profound life change. Profoundly changing a life gives me great satisfaction…that’s when its time to give.
  • Organizations that make profound change in the lives of those who do not deserve to be where they are get the long term support.

I would love to hear your thoughts as to how you deal with this yourself. Please comment and share….

Currently there is one life that I am working hard at helping change. He was born profoundly deaf to a young single mother and a system that has no means to help him. No fault of his own, and giving can make a profound difference. Without a cochlear implant this profoundly deaf child has no hope of a regular normal life. Put in an orphanage by his grandmother as he has become too hard to handle, and not even the resources to get to a school for the deaf. With an implant and a couple years of speech therapy this child becomes like any other with a hope for the future….and a much higher likelihood that he will then want to give back when he can. Please check his story—

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Sunday is Market Day

Sunday is one of my favorite days.  Many Mexican people work 6 days a week, and since Sunday is their only day off, it is a real family day.  A day for errands and fun and rest and food and shopping.  We have decided it will be the same for us.  Turn off the computers and get out into the community.  If we have children staying with us, they are dragged along, and we feel like a real local family.  We always start with church – a lively bilingual experience with young Mexican families and old grey-haired gringos.

The afternoon is for the pool or the beach, but first is the market – the tianguis as it is called here.  This area of Banderas Bay is interesting because it is a real mix of developed Mexico (Walmart and Home Depot and Costco) and undeveloped Mexico (dirt roads and horses and chickens).   We live in a very Mexican neighborhood and have chosen to do most of our shopping at the local shops and stands – the fruit store and the fish store and the many taco stands and street restaurants.  And on Sunday it’s the tianguis in the dry river bed.  Blocks and blocks of tables set up to sell produce and clothes and toys and tools and electronics and miscellaneous junk.  New stuff and used stuff.  This is where we go to buy our fruit and vegetables each week – giant bags of bananas and pineapples and avocados and even eggs that add up to $10 or $15.  Enough for the entire week.

I thought you might like to see some of the sights we see each week and to watch the video of us driving through the neighborhood on our way home from the market in our little blue golf cart.   It’s long – 5 minutes – and it’s bumpy, but it shows exactly where … and how… we live.




Now, jump in the golf cart with us….

This is certainly not the life I expected to live here – but it’s the life we love!   Thanks for joining us on the ride.

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A Special Gift

27591021_10155218685851198_145060427_nIf you’ve been following my personal Facebook page, you’ve seen the new project Grant and I and our friends Francisco and Michael have been working on – raising funds to help our little deaf friend Gael get a Cochlear implant.  Gael is one of our children at Manos de Amor and he has been deaf since birth.  He is now 6 and has only recently been seen by hearing specialists to diagnose his hearing loss.  We now know that although he is profoundly deaf,  he is a candidate for an implant – which means he WILL HEAR and speak someday.

But it is expensive – $45,000 USD for the operation and Gael’s mother has absolutely no possibility of even dreaming about such a gift.   She is young and is trying to raise two sons on a tiny salary.  That is why Gael lives in our Children’s Home during the week – his mom cannot handle the expense or his very active and unmanageable behavior, which most certainly stems from the fact that he cannot hear and has no language for communication.  He is super busy and somewhat naughty – but he loves Grant and will calm down when Grant picks him up or cuddles him.  He is smart and so badly wants to communicate.

We cannot stand the thought of this very bright boy growing up without ever hearing when we know there is a solution.  We know we are rich in comparison to most of the children in this country.  We know that all of you who are reading this are in the top few percentiles of wealth in the world.  We know that none of us blink at spending $5 for a grande non fat double shot extra hot something or other.   $20 for a bottle of wine when tap water would quench our thirst.  New shoes because the color trend has changed this season.  How can we let a little boy remain in silence?  Without words?  Without hearing his mom’s voice or his little brother’s laughter or his own voice?

If you can find a way, will you share some of your abundance with Gael?  Even if the sacrifice hurts just a bit?  Giving yourself away will always open the door to a fuller heart and deeper joy.  It’s what we were created to do.  Let’s give Gael the Gift of Hearing!!

Here are the links you will need:

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My One Word for 2018

my-one-word-2This country has stolen my heart – and when a heart becomes connected to a person or a place or a cause it means there is the potential for that heart to be broken.  To be busted wide open.   When you love something, it has the power to hurt you too and Mexico has brought me much love along with some pain.   As I grow closer to the children of Manos de Amor, I see the suffering they carry.  Two new little boys who are so malnourished, their shoulder blades stick out like sharp knifes pushing against their t-shirts.  A sweet little 10-year-old girl who was so excited to meet the dad she hadn’t seen in years and instead found herself being repeatedly raped by him.  Three little girls whose mom promised to pick them up on Christmas Eve and then disappeared for 6 weeks.   Just. so. much. pain.

I thought carefully about my word for this year.  My guiding value.  The one thing I want to focus on, remember, search for, chase after.  At first, I thought compassion would be my word.  More love for the people I rub shoulders with.  But as a difficult December moved into January, I noticed something happening in me.  I was getting discouraged and a bit cynical and even a bit hopeless.  The stories were piling up and my heart was getting bruised.

That’s when I read a Scripture verse and found my word – well it’s actually a phrase – for this next chapter.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”    Philippians 4:8 NIV

Whatever is lovely.  I get to choose to think about what is lovely.  Yes, there is pain and suffering and injustice here.   Too much.  I have chosen to spend each day grabbing it and fighting against it.   But I know that the way to keep my heart soft is to train my mind to think about what is true.  To look for what is noble.  To overcome the crap by embracing the lovely.

So I have started looking and counting and recording.  How many good and lovely gifts can I see around me? How many will there be in a year?  Here is just the start:

  1. The sunrise and palm trees framed in my bathroom window every morning
  2. A fountain garden oasis in the middle of an office complex
  3. A coconut that broke a headlight but didn’t smash a windshield
  4. Breakfast with a view of bobbing boats
  5. Immigration card ready just in time
  6. A tiny orphan falling asleep in my arms
  7. Buttery popcorn
  8. Hot coffee and a good book in bed
  9. A husband who gets up at 5:00 to sit with little girls
  10. A home with extra rooms for the broken children who need a family
  11. Long distance friends who still love us
  12. A few unexpected moments of sleep
  13. Bacon and eggs and perfectly ripe avocados for breakfast
  14. A tiny “I’m sorry” from a little one who strayed from love
  15. A glass of wine at the end of a full weekend
  16. The smell of bleach and ajax in an almost clean bathroom
  17. I’m so Happy” sung by children who have little reason to be
  18. Sound of a marching band going by at midnight
  19. A giant pot of tamales followed by little laughing dancers
  20. My tiny garden oasis – torches and candles and fountain and wine and a wooden saxophone
  21. A goat and a turkey and a tuba – fun afternoon ride around town

And at least 40 more so far.  Honestly, I’m finding it harder than I expected.  I forget to look. I forget to rejoice.  I forget to be thankful.  Complaining is way easier.  But that’s the whole point of the ‘word’ – to embrace a new thing and to grow. So for this year, I choose to focus on whatever is lovely.   What’s your word for 2018?



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It’s Raining Coconuts

Our poor little Azulita has had a lot of issues from the potholes and speedbumps and curbs in our neighborhood – and today from the skies.


Many stories.  Funny, irritating stories.  First the keys lost in the ocean which led to a tow truck to the dealership which led to the smashed windshield which led to many weeks of Mananas.

     A Crappy Week of Mananas

     The Car Adventure Continues….

There was the especially giant speed bump hidden in the shadows in San Vicente one night which led to the broken radiator which led to the broken air conditioner which led to many more weeks of Mananas.


A few weeks ago there was the curb that jumped out of nowhere which broke the radiator again and the air conditioner lines again which led to the welder guy which led to the backwards welding which led back to the welder guy which eventually fixed the problem.


20180119_104729And then today.  We were driving home from the Immigration office celebrating the issuance of our new green residence cards.  Heading to a celebration breakfast date. On the beautiful and smooth tree lined streets of Nuevo Vallarta.  What could possibly go wrong here?  And then the sky was falling Chicken Little.  As Grant slowed for a speedbump, a coconut fell out of a tree, smashing our headlight and bouncing down the road spraying its refreshing water along the way.   Sigh.  Here we go again.  On the up side, our windshield wasn’t smashed, our convertible roof was up, Azulita’s body wasn’t dented.  Just a headlight.  And probably many weeks of Mananas!  The adventure continues.

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Just in Time…

We’re officially Mexicans for 3 more years – the last step on the road towards becoming Permanent residents. It has been a surprisingly easy process, although not without typical Mexican bumps – the most annoying being the Bureaucratic Lineup from Hell. This last process meant 6 trips to the Immigration office to present application forms, bank receipts and fingerprints. The Christmas break created an expected slowdown but last week the awaited message showed up online saying everything had been registered and we could come to the office to be fingerprinted – the final stage before issuance of the card. It did seem silly since we had been fingerprinted in the same office 1 year ago, and 1 million copies had been made then. But I have learned to follow Mexican bureaucracy without question and I was not going to start ‘whying’ at this stage.

Normally we would not be particularly concerned about the timeline. Mañana would be just fine. But I must leave for Canada on Tuesday to attend meetings and I can’t leave without my renewed card in hand. Time matters this time so when we got word that our application was ready for fingerprints we headed to the Immigration Office in Nuevo Vallarta. The office opens at 9:00 and we arrived by 9:30 only to find we were already 42nd in line. Seriously. 41 grey haired gringo couples ahead of us. All clutching a dog eared file folder full of papers to be sorted, shuffled and stapled.

We had no choice – I was running out of days. We bought a cup of coffee from the nearby coffee shop and settled in for the wait. Which turned out to be 4 hours long. The clock read 1:30. 4 long hours. Waiting to be told that the application was not ready. WHAT? My online profile told me to come, it would be ready. No senora…. maybe tomorrow. Well of course it wasn’t ready.

We returned the next day – at 8:15 – to take the 10th place in line. By 9:30 we had been fingerprinted and today we returned to pick up our coveted card. With one day to spare. Tuesday I fly out as a Mexican resident, a green card with an unsmiling photo to prove it. All is again well.


For the next 3 years we will be considered Temporary Residents and then we will automatically become Permanent Residents. And by automatically I mean 6 appointments, long lines, more papers and fingerprints and payments. But we are approved, accepted, welcomed, official. Just in Time!

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Pricila Heads to School

After two years of struggling to get Pricila’s birth certificate,  she is finally fully documented and this week she was super excited to start attending Kinder!  Tiny steps to a new a life …..

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