Whatever begins, also ends.
One final story from our visit to El Salvador …
Our return trip to Milwaukee included a two-hour layover between flights. Five of us who had made the journey together sat in the waiting area at Houston’s Intercontinental Airport sharing photos and telling stories, anticipating a scheduled arrival back at Mitchell Field about 10:00 pm.
In some ways, our experiences in El Salvador had differed. A woman from Sheboygan had served as a translator; because she is a native Spanish speaker, she easily befriended many of the Salvadorans and always had a crowd of giggling kids swirling around her. A woman from Milwaukee had led empowerment workshops for the Salvadoran women, developing deep friendships in the process. A woman from West Bend had been involved in the non-traditional and spiritual therapies, finding herself touched by the number of ways people experienced healing. My wife, Kathi, and I had worked as a nurse and a physician, seeing the physical challenges and sensing the joy of the people we met despite the frustrations of the language barrier.
In other ways, our experiences were shared. Despite the disturbing levels of violence throughout the country, the people we met, from government health ministry officials to San Salvador’s homeless, were friendly and thoughtful. Despite the dust and mud, the people were clean and dressed as nicely as they could afford. Despite the clinic’s long lines and protracted wait times, the Salvadorans were, to a person, patient and grateful.
As we waited at the airport, two hours turned into four then into six. A major storm on the East Coast had caused a chain-reaction of delayed flights all over the country. Later, after our plane had finally arrived at the gate, there were no flight attendants available. The Houston ground crew worked overtime trying to get us home.
Our little group continued sharing stories. One of our friends had been outside of the clinic building late in the afternoon on the last day. The local organizers had shut off the line so we could pack up our things and get back to the guest house. Some of the Salvadorans who had been waiting all day to see one of the doctors or dentists were now being told that the clinic was over until next year. Despite this setback, some of the people had hugged and thanked the clinic volunteers. “Thank you for coming,”
they told one of the staff. “We will see you when you return.”
The story seemed almost unbelievable, especially as I watched three American tourists returning from vacations in Cozumel tear into the airline employees about the delays and how important it was for them to get home. They exploded again with each delay announcement storming around and pointedly shouting into their cellular phones.
Of course, I knew why they were upset and maybe I have been that upset at some point in my life. But, for the moment, the extra time in that airport offered me both the opportunity to hear some more stories and the possibility to be grateful for a bit more of the healing that is best experienced by, sometimes, just living in the present.
| ||The following is feedback received for this blog:|
So nice to read a bit about your trip! Thanks for keeping up with this blog, it remains inspiring to me.
- Mary Buckler