Janice started Team Wells’s morning with a devotional called Gratitude by Mike Perry: “Gratitude as a practice. As an intentional act. Gratitude, not as obligation but as celebration.”
A heartfelt way to point our compasses. When we pulled up at the primary school before 8:00 am, people lined the sidewalk all the way along, and past, the school, bodies pressed against the whitewashed wall, waiting on the narrow sidewalk. Families with tiny babies strapped to their mamas. Families with elders. Multi generations coming for care, many dressed in traditional clothing. Women and girls in woven shirts and embroidered blouses, saturated in color. Children toddled, walked, held tight to family hands or were carried because they couldn’t walk. A beautiful sea of dark hair and dark eyes full of light.
Patients were seen in all the clinics. At 90, Maria got her first wheelchair thanks to the unique partnership between Free Wheelchair Mission and Faith In Practice. These shiny sky blue wheelchairs arrive in boxes. They’re quickly assembled by volunteers with support from wheelchair master Blanca Buez from the staff of Free Wheelchair Mission Program. She is amazing at building wheelchairs as she maneuvers in her own, as she smiles and lights up the day. Maria came with one of her daughters, a daughter-in-law, and two sons. Since her husband’s death three years ago, her children are her caretakers, and she rotates—one month at a time—to their homes. She birthed 12 children and has over 60 grandkids (“Maybe more,” her daughter added.) “When I die,” Maria said. “I don’t worry. I’ll have so many people to take care of me.”
Eight-year-old Alexander was also fitted for his first wheelchair, and moved himself for the first time in his young life. “This is your walking for now,” Deborah, a physical therapist, told Alexander as she placed her hands on the top of his hands, as she showed him the motion of pushing on the rims of his new blue wheelchair. After three short pushes, he tired. He reached for Mama. “You have to let him do it himself,” Deborah counseled. “You have to let go,” she said and the air got a little hard as mama took in the words. This Let Go was quickly followed by “Look how fast he’s learning!” And Alexander and mama beamed.
One patient walked in with a whittled down stick, and walked out with an aluminum cane, his grin as wide as the ocean. Another brought his walker missing three rubber stoppers and the fourth ground to a nub. He left with a walker with four rubber stoppers. He left knowing people care.
All of Team Wells, Faith In Practice staff, and the fabulous Red Hats (local volunteers) cared for the patients with love and kindness, with gratitude that stretches bigger than the sky. With gratitude as a celebration.