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Stamping out poverty

Today is blog action day for poverty. I am joining hundreds of bloggers dedicating today’s post.

There is the obvious poverty with few physical possessions, hungry, homeless, jobless, poorly clothed or naked, no access to medical care, no transportation, no books, no education. Thinking about what the meaning of poverty leads to wondering what the definition of rich is. When I went to Honduras earlier this year, I was impressed with the generosity and wide smiles of nearly everyone I saw. Despite their obvious lack of things many take for granted—clean drinking water, access to medical care, electrical appliances, That should be easy to fix—although it hasn’t been accomplished. Then there is a worse kind of poverty—the poverty of soul—the poverty of love and inability to move on.

In June I returned to Honduras as part of a medical mission team sponsored by St. Stephens Episcopal Church of Seguin Texas. I was one of four physicians but the only one who spoke even a minimal amount of Spanish. Each day we loaded up a yellow school bus with all our medications and equipment and rode for an hour or so before setting up our makeshift clinic space in schools or churches. Huge lines of patients waited patiently, many had walked over an hour to see us. Most of them had worms because their drinking water was not clean, few if any owned a book or had electrical lights.

In September, Hurricane Ike made landfall on the Gulf Coast and left a remarkable path of destruction. Traffic signals dangle uselessly or are totally gone. We have no power and time is measured by the sun. Tap water is undrinkably salty. The hospital is closed. There are no stores open, no restaurants, no pharmacies, no gas, no newspapers, no phone. My home has lost part of its roof; my backyard is covered with fallen trees; the crepe myrtles which had been in full bloom the previous day now have no leaves.

The Hondurans all had smiles for us; they waited patiently in buildings without air conditioning or lights. They endured my poor Spanish with patience. Their regular daily life was similar to my life immediately post hurricane. I met my neighbors sitting on their front porches; I had dinner by candlelight; I enjoyed the silence of curfew.

It may be that ‘things’ do not define poverty.

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