Are you content?
With each trip, I gain new little insights into life…..Somehow in a place where I have access to so much less, I learn so much more and I feel like I become so much more.
“El esta muy contenta….gracias a Dios” dice su mama – “He is very content….thanks to God” said his mom.
A tornado of thoughts whirled around my mind. Isn’t it amazing how the brain has the capacity in one second to experience so many more emotions/sensations/words than could ever be spoken in a lifetime? In just a second, your brain can think a “monton de cosas”.
Muy contenta? How could he be content? And what does content mean?
If you think about it, we don’t really use that word very often to describe our state of being. We say we are happy or sad or frustrated or excited or furious or feeling great but we rarely say we are content. But in Guatemala, the word “contenta” is used often. People say it all the time to express that all is good with the world…at that moment they have no worries….nothing hurts….they feel peace…..connected with God…..it’s an all around good feeling. I guess when you suffer often, then being “content” is a marvelous feeling.
Somehow at home I don’t think we value being “content”. Just sitting around feeling “fine” and not suffering is never enough! We have to be doing something, achieving something, experiencing something, debating something, or maybe criticizing someone.
But I guess when you are in a place where everything is scarce and nothing can be taken for granted then being “content” is a luxury. But to say that this young man was “muy contenta” really startled me.
So Daniel is a 20 year young man who is a paraplegic. We came to know him 5 years ago when he was involved in an accident involving a drunk driver that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He has suffered numerous other complications including the need for a permanent colostomy. AND….he lives in a place where there is such limited health care resources, no health insurance and no real help. There are no physical therapists, occupational therapists. No medicines. No nada. The one little thing that we do for him is to bring him colostomy supplies. I have gotten them from Toledo Hospital and from a great organization that supplies these. You would think I was bringing gold to them. When they run out of the supplies we bring, they have to buy things which means they then have less to eat. Or they have to use makeshift supplies that cause even more problems. I brought a “monton” of supplies this time. For Daniel’s mom, it looked like Christmas. She eagerly went through the bags with a huge smile every time she saw something that was EXACTLY what she had been praying for. And there were even more goodies! Special ointments and powders that she didn’t even know existed. Oh….the hug she gave me when we left!
The last time I visited them was about six months ago. Daniel was laying in exactly the same lounge chair that he was in now. When I say lounge chair I mean one of those plastic kinds that we used to use at the beach years ago – the ones with the plastic strips that go across and break easily. He had a towel under him. I mentioned that perhaps a lambs wool pillow might be better to prevent skin breakdown. They laughed at the idea of it! I thought maybe I could find one – seemed like a simple thing. And then I thought how many simple things I have that are treasures here; things I don’t even think about it; things I think I can’t live without.
So whenever I come to bring Daniel his supplies, I always know that he will be there….sitting in the lounge chair by the small old style TV. On my last visit, he showed me some drawings he had done and was excited about learning to draw….drawings of birds. I asked him if he was still doing it but he said he has been too busy. Too busy! Again, the whirlwind of thoughts…..busy going what? How could he be busy? “I’ve been studying a lot now and finishing my education.” And then I thought about how much time it must take just for him to get dressed, to eat, to get in a chair. But who am I to know is future? Perhaps his future holds far greater things than I could ever imagine.
We chatted a bit. I wanted to cry inside thinking about the young teen who could have had a different life. A life taken away. But then I realized the remorse was mine, not his. His mom has stood by his side in all the ways that a mom does. She has had to become a nurse, a doctor, a healer. She has stayed up long nights seeing him through moments when he came close to leaving this world. And maybe it’s because of her that he smiles so easily.
So as we left, I imagine I had a look of pity on my face and I asked if we could do anything. They both smiled happily and his mom said “El es muy contenta….gracias a Dios!” and he nodded in agreement. It was not said in a way to make me feel comforted nor as a way to minimize the reality. It was just said as a truth. At that very moment, they were there as a family….her other children running in and out….he had no pain, no fever today…..the gringos had just brought the gold….all was well with the world.
So that was my lesson….a lesson I often read about….the very lesson that Paul said in Phillipians “I have learned to be content in all things”.
As I wrote this, I had just found out that our plane was delayed….we might not make the connecting flight…hmmmm…..I have a lot of “important” things scheduled tomorrow. Perhaps I won’t get frustrated but just be content that really all is good.
Yes, there are things in my life that I wish were different. We all do – but how much better if let go of even thinking about them. Instead, it is people like Daniel who have taught me to be content and joyful about the things of beauty in my life. But there are so many things that are beautiful, that draw me close to God, so many joys that of course are mostly connected with my greatest treasures – the people I love and that love me.