We met a guy in Chetumal awhile back who was fixing up an old boat to cross the bay to Belize. He was a nice enough gentleman, and my husband was impressed with his conversational clarity. John (not his real name) didn’t seem to be too crazy – he said he was a victim of circumstance and ended up in Mexico homeless and broke. Now, he was trying to get to Belize because he thought the medical care there would benefit him. (In reality, medical care in Mexico is considered superior to Belize.) John, a Canadian, clearly needed medical care – his physical health issue was obvious.
Tedly gave him a little money – John didn’t ask for it. Tedly told him maybe the money would help buy supplies to fix the boat. It was a great amount to John. He had nothing. The boat was a rickety, not-so-seaworthy-looking, old-fashioned Mexican row boat. It needed a lot of work. He was fixing it up with trash he found.
We left Chetumal and came back to Mahahual. All night and the next morning, my spouse was pensive. What’s the matter, I asked. I can’t stop thinking about John, and how we might help him more, Tedly answered. God, how I love this man’s good heart.
After mulling it over, Tedly sent the Canadian consulate an email, asking if there was a way to get John back to Canada for the medical care he needed. The affirmative reply came the next day, and all we had to do was get John to the consulate, and then John needed funds for travel. Tedly was willing to spring for the ticket to get him home.
So we took pubic transportation back to Chetumal, a two-hour trip. We again found John. We took him to lunch. And that’s when he told us more of his story. He would not be going to the consulate in this region of Mexico, and he would not be flying back to Canada for the medical care he needed. Instead, he was on a mission to get to Belize, because that’s what God told him he had to do.
Tedly was deflated.
We sat with John for a few hours, and listened to him talk. I wondered when the last time anyone took the time to listen to him talk. John clearly enjoyed having people to talk to.
He wasn’t drunk, didn’t smell like alcohol. He wasn’t on drugs. He was intelligent, and up to date on current events in the world. John’s main goal was to listen to God’s directions for him to go to Belize, where he thought he could get medical treatment.
Tedly again gave John more money. We left him to his boat, and we again returned to Mahahual. My spouse was severely disappointed he wasn’t able to convince John to accept our help to get back to Canada. I tried to lift Tedly’s spirits, and restated there aren’t many men I know who would take the time to try to help another person in that much need, let alone give that much money as a donation for a trip that likely won’t pan out. We gave John a bit of comfort, and companionship. That’s all we could do, and that’s more than he had.
Meanwhile, we help other people often, even on our budget travel lifestyle. Let’s be clear: we are not loaded with money – not by any stretch of the imagination. We live well by Central American standards, but we aren’t living a life of luxury. We use public transportation, we make a lot of our own food, and I don’t drink alcohol – compared to Americans on vacation with rental cars, restaurants every meal and partying like crazy.
My spouse recently commissioned a boy to build him a kite from trash. The kid is quite the entrepreneur – he was flying his own kite made of trash and my spouse decided he wanted one, too. A few days later the boy delivered his creation, and made some pesos for himself.
We also buy things from vendors, like palm leaves fashioned into flowers. We tip well wherever we go. Sometimes, we give money to people we know who really need it.
All of that said, I’ve started joking with Tedly that we have to stop giving away so much money because we keep blowing our monthly budget. I’m only half-serious.
Most Americans have no idea how great they have it. How lucky they are to live in a country with (most places) clean, running drinking water. Relatively cheap and reliable electricity.
I look at it this way – our worst days are better than the best days of so many people. Poverty in Central America can be extreme. We’ve seen some pretty depressing things, including some things most Americans wouldn’t believe. It’s not all sunshine and turquoise beach water when we visit different countries, cities, towns and villages. But I don’t post those images to Instagram and Facebook. Maybe I should.
As I write this, we are also trying to help someone else. It’s an ongoing effort involving someone from Central America. I’ll write about that more once I have a better idea of where this experience will take us all. We haven’t tried anything like this, so we’ll wait for God, or the Universal Spirit if you prefer, to show us the right path to take. Meanwhile, we have this: back when we saw John several weeks ago, he’d pray for us, and I believe that can help.