The thing we have struggled with the most and continue to struggle with is how to best help the people we find in our path here. Every day we see a need, feel some pain, touch a wound and we are not sure when we can or should help. It is not just about money – maybe it’s least about money.
I have told you many stories about some of the families we have come to know and love. Recently I have been sharing about the 3 girls who have stayed in our home after mom lost her house. We are living week to week in that story and last weekend we waited at the orphanage on Friday afternoon to see if mom would come for her girls. 2 of them were in school (yay!) and the agreement was that at 4:50 she would come to pick up her youngest and then walk to the school to gather her other 2 for the weekend. We waited and at 5:27 we decided she mustn’t be coming and we needed to go pick up the 2 at school at 5:30 and bring them home with us. I was relieved. We jumped in the golf cart and about 4 blocks from the orphanage we saw mom slowly walking towards the school. So now my conscience had a battle. Should we meet her, hand over her 5-year-old who was with us and deliver her to the school to get the others? Or should we turn down a different street, so she didn’t see us, go get the girls and take them home. Honestly, I didn’t want them to go home with her – but she is their mom and she appeared to be doing the right thing – although late and without her youngest. So, we pulled up and
offered her a ride to the school. I knew the oldest daughter would not be happy – she wanted to go home with us – so we quickly left before we were seen by the girls. No one needed a scene outside the school. We continued on to drop off 3 of the other Mans de Amor children in another town 20 miles away and stopped for some seafood. We were quiet – I imagine this is how divorced parents feel when the ‘other parent’ gets their kids for the weekend. We were worried, angry, frustrated. But we are not their parents and it seems mom is trying.
About the time we were leaving the restaurant, I looked at my phone and saw a number of missed calls from the orphanage director. She had the girls, mom didn’t actually want them that weekend because she had no beds in her ‘new’ home. Relief. They would be ours for one more weekend at least.
We headed back to Bucerias to pick them up and then we were faced with another moral dilemma. We had an extra bed in our garage. Our friend Diana had left it there and told us to give it to someone who needed it. I knew the orphanage had another little bed to be given away. We could help them set up their house so that they could again have their daughters with them. I could make happen the exact opposite of what I wanted. Oh, the struggle that went on inside. No bed = the girls stay with me. Beds = the girls go home.
I talked to Veronica that night and she said “let’s meet tomorrow morning and take them the beds. Also, they want you to take your truck and help them get all the things that were thrown in the street when they were evicted from their last house.” I knew – albeit grudgingly – that this was the right thing. Let’s help them make a new home.
Saturday morning, we drove to their new house to pick everyone up. House is a bit of an exaggeration. There was a tiny cement room. The yard was surrounded by a wire fence and miscellaneous filthy blankets were attached to the fence to create walls. There was a piece of tin over it all. That was the home – a fenced yard. But it was theirs and it was not much different than many others in the neighborhood.
Off we went to help them find their discarded stuff. We drove into one of the worst neighborhoods in Bucerias. Grant and I had driven through there before in the golf cart and had said we didn’t think we better come back – a little rough. But we helped them load and unload their few belongings and left them to set it all up. The littlest one
stayed with mama and we took the 2 middle girls to the swimming pool for the afternoon. I was very upset – I didn’t want them to go live in that little house – and when some tourists at the pool tried playing with the girls I grabbed our stuff and said “Let’s go” – no stranger is going to talk to my kids. Except they’re not my kids and the home their mom is making for them is all she can provide. The best way to help right now is to empower her to be the best mom she can be – offering support when she needs it. That is what my mind tells me, my heart was struggling to agree.
That night the two youngest daughters were excited to stay with mom. The oldest still refused and stayed with us. We had some good talks about the importance of family and we told this angry 9-year-old we would be there if she needed us. If you are scared, you know where we live. She talked about her other siblings – besides the three of them there are 3 more brothers, 2 more sisters. The sisters live with Grandma. She doesn’t even know where the brothers live – Brian and Juan Carlos and one other. They are just teenagers living on their own. It was a sad conversation and I feel so much pain for this child and for the mom who has lost all but 2 of her 8 children. For now at least, the girls will continue to come to Manos de Amor during the week so mom and her boyfriend can find jobs. Our weekend house will be open if they need us.
This family is not the only one we contemplate helping each week. There are constantly people showing up at our door selling things, needing things – maybe legitimate needs, maybe scams. There is one young man who comes once or twice a week and rings our doorbell and asks if we have work. We get him to sweep leaves or wash our car or other small tasks. We give him 20 or 50 pesos, usually whatever food we have around. Grant noticed his shoes were almost completely worn out and gave him some sandals. Another day some pants. A leash and some food for his scruffy little dog. Well you’re not going to believe this. Today he came to our door as usual and this time he said – “I am Juan Carlos. You know my sisters. You know my mom.” It was one of the lost brothers! For the past 4 or 5 months we have been feeding and clothing the brother of these three sweet little girls. No one but God could have joined us all together.
I don’t know what our continuing role will be with this family. The oldest daughter does not want to go home with her mom. She does not like the mom’s boyfriend. I don’t know that it is right for us to keep her with us. I want to support a relationship but how can we help it become a healthy one? How can we help reunite the brother with his siblings and his mom?
Today we stopped at the orphanage and all 3 girls surrounded us and gave us letters they had written to us. Yesterday they had been in a fight with one of the boys in the home. The letter said they were sorry for fighting. (I didn’t know anything about the fight – not sure why I was getting the apology 😊) And then the last sentence of each letter – one to Grant, one to me. I love you Grat. (They can’t say Grant). I love you Karen. Hugs all around. And the story continues.