Part two of a story about serving Jaco, Costa Rica. This is Pt. 1
After Wilson passes out for an hour or so, we cross town together, heading toward the clinics.
Worried about all the money he doesn’t have, Wilson tells me why we are not going to the clinic. He says that he doesn’t want to be deported and admits that, just a few days before, he left the hospital when they started talking money.
Now, I’m pretty sure Wilson’s neck injury is deadly, so I do my best to convey that the open, oozing sore doesn’t really care about his money or deportation concerns. I’m getting pretty short and frustrated as the petty fighting drags on—is this what parenting feels like?
During our fighting, he reveals to me that this nasty wound is the result of a stabbing. For a month or so, Wilson worked for a phone. In a night, someone decided they’d take that phone; so a broken bottle and three quick jabs were all they needed.
Though I can’t know if it’s true, the story as it is, the heat of the day, and Wilson’s petty aversion to my help are breaking me down. I beg him to come away.
Power of Presence
Eventually, we agree with one another—I’m still not sure what we agreed on—but, through my broken Spanish, I convince him he’s breaking my heart. Soon enough, we are in a clinic that feels a lot like the DMV.
I sit with him, in cold plastic seats and in line at the dreaded billing department. All the while, his drunken pettiness and worries nip at my spirit. Then, catching the eyes of staring locals, my frustration swells.
Suddenly, my nasty laundry is on my mind. The billing department, the language barrier, the stench of alcohol and dried blood, and the stares of strangers unhinge me.
The dam in my head breaks, and out roars a river of anxious thoughts: “They probably all think I’m getting taken advantage of. I bet I am. What the hell am I doing here? My clothes are gonna get mildewed. Should I just leave?”
The onslaught of thoughts works in my mind like ants on high alarm—every time I try to push thoughts out, more anxious ones come ganging up gnawing away at me. Until they don’t. Wilson’s name cracks through all the busyness in my mind. Then, Wilson stumbles up and off to an open door, leaving behind a chair full of “my” food and a construction vest. At that moment, I look down.
The Lord’s Prayer
Within me, my own heart breaks. I can’t even speak to God. Choking out an Our Father, I am grateful for all my years at Catholic schools reciting prayers, for at that moment when all I wanted to do was leave and be pissed off, The Lord’s Prayer gave me spiritual eyes. Grabbing Wilson’s things, I down next to the Doctor’s door.
I talked to God, wondering, “Is it enough to just be with him? I mean, I can’t cure him. I don’t really have money to pay. Maybe it’s enough to be here and keep him here.” And after I stood in line waiting for meds since Wilson couldn’t read, I understood that my presence was exactly what he needed. Maybe literacy issues are a blessing though.
If you’ve ever been to the DMV at 4 PM on a Monday, then you will understand how dehumanizing a gov’t employed pharmacist on Saturday morning can be. No one wants to be at the DMV. Usually, you’re there because you have to be. You take a number, which supplants your name, and you wait there for an hour if you’re lucky.
In the same way, no one wants to go to the clinic in Costa Rica simply waiting for your number to be called, ready to run through tests and to shuffle through lines. You hope whatever they do works cause you don’t want to go back to a place that feels a lot more like a prison than a place of healing. How much for a guy who’s drunk and doesn’t care about himself? Does he need to feel like a cattle? I’m glad he missed that experience, cause what each of us needs is someone to love us right then, in the muck and mire. We need to encounter grace.
How Serving Jaco Changes Me
I wish I could say that day with Wilson ends with him taking the drugs and everything getting better. It didn’t. Turns out alcohol and antibiotics don’t work well together—who knew? However, the story isn’t over, nor is its impact in my life.
For starters, at some point stumbling through the day with Wilson, I heard Mother Theresa quoting Jesus, “Whatever you do for the least of these, ‘You do it for ME.’” As my life intersects with the homeless men, it intersects with Christ, and something like growth happens within me.
There’s a lot to tell you about Jesus’ relationship with me. For now, I must say this: loving God is a risky business. God is weighty. Experientially, I don’t know much about romantic relationships; nonetheless, through a relationship with God, I know that really knowing someone costs us. We shout on Sunday’s that we want to be “used” and that we want to be called deeper. Do we count the costs?
Sanctification – Becoming One
When two people become one in marriage, selfishness burns away (or so I’ve heard). “Oh, you wanted to go get a beer with friends? Well, the baby is crying and I want to sleep.” Similarly, when I draw close to God, which sometimes happens when I do “for the least of these,” something in me ends up dying. As I draw closer to God, I see more of His heart for each of us.
Ideas about mildewing clothes burn away. More like those burn away. Then the people around me start to get all of me and my heart. Serving Jaco is a good place to interact with Jesus, but it’s also just a place. I can see wherever I am, whether it be a job or a home, the one’s before me are the least of these and Jesus needs.