Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Kite Rises Highest Against the Wind, Not With It

Winston Churchill said, "A kite rises highest against the wind, not with it." That saying has often come to the fore in my life as adversity has entered. The great statesman was referring not only to a country, but to a community and to the individual person.

Nowhere is that more evident than in our Guatemalan community - with the beautiful Mayan people who line up outside the entrances to their clinic and to our Xavier medical family in each and every exhausting hour.

In the fall of 2016, a friend and colleague, Dr. Carol Scheerer, head of the Occupational Therapy Department, came to my office at Xavier. She wanted to introduce me to Jose Rolando Monterroso and his wife. Lisa Monterroso was an OT graduate of Xavier, who had met her now- husband on an OT trip to Guatemala. Jose Roland and Lisa were visiting Cincinnati with their two young sons, Lucas and Jacob.

Carol thought it would be nice for real Guatemalans to meet me, an honorary Guatemalan. Little did Carol know we were ready to move on from having accomplished our long term medical mission in Patanatik. In that Western highlands community we had totally transformed the community's capacity to take care of its own health care. It took six years, incredible Xavier students, medical colleagues and an inspired and dedicated community to achieve that goal. It was time for a new community and a new local inspired soul to handle our logistics and create a lasting bond with the local population.

Jose Roland was that man - thoughtful, capable, inspired and with a heart that could span from Guatemala to Ohio.

We entered into our relationship slowly, letting the gentle hand of God sew the disparate fabrics together. A mid-January preliminary visit only served to confirm that all of Guatemala was in his pocket. We had entered into his heart, as he had into ours.

The interfaith medical service week has now come and gone. All the planning, all the fundraising, all the medical education came together in a way that can only be described as magical. The 19 member team, supported by the  prayers and donations of hundreds, brilliantly executed our service trip. Hundreds of patients were seen and cared for, hundreds of pairs of glasses changed lives, but over and above it all, the twelve Xavier students were forever changed. They saw hundreds of community members, in native dress and Western attire, young and old, desperately sick or just needing an affirmation of relative good health, pass in front of them and enter into their hearts. These special descendants of a great, inspired Mayan tradition, taught them resolve and faith. It is a hard life in our two impoverished communities. It is a difficult daily grind to navigate the hillsides and the heat, the poverty and the bureaucracy. But every person they met flew their kite so high against the adversities they encountered. Not one patient noticed the slight hesitation in their blood glucose finger prick. Not one patient complained about the wait to see doctors or our pharmacist. Not one patient expressed concern as they tried on tens of used eye glasses to find their own 20/20 on our eye chart. Not one patient was frustrated with some of our team members' broken Spanish. Not one. Despite the daily adversities, caring for children and family took priority and found quiet resolution. Despite the adversity not one patient was bowed. Their faith, their love of family, their pride in their Guatemalan heritage lifted our spirits and brought joy to each team member. At the end of each and every day our exhausted team members found the strength for medical debrief and reflections. Tears of joy, compassion and growth lifted our spirits.

We will be back. The beautiful people of San Lucas and Chapernas have partnered resolutely with us. They want to help themselves. They want to sail their kites high. Our beautiful young people will hold the kite strings with them. God will provide the wind.

Rabbi Abie Ingber

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