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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

Take time to make a difference in people's lives

Friday, March 30, 2012

Within 24 hours, I had almost forgotten what I promised myself I wouldn't. How was it possible that something so monumental, so life-redirecting, could lose its punch within one day? Let me explain.

The day was close to perfect. My husband Dave and I were in Mazatlan with our friends Brian and Stacia.

I awoke early, made my organic coffee, had some quiet time with the Lord, and played tennis with three of my Mazatlan girlfriends. Dave and I then went to breakfast at a "locals" restaurant where I watched an elderly lady robotically mold her famous blue tortillas, heating them on a makeshift grill, while our young, smiling waitress sauntered between tables, oblivious to the uneven dirt floor and the cat that wandered aimlessly between our seats. A single light bulb was piggybacked from the nearby street's power line, and Christmas poinsettias were strangled by ropes anchoring them on rickety pieces of timber which somehow kept the thatched roof upright and over our heads. The meal was scrumptious and the place was packed. It was a great morning.

Following breakfast I met up with Karen, another Fort Scott friend, and she and Stacia and I walked the beach, Stacia stooping to pick up seashells and Karen talking to vendors about their wares. Back at our condo, I began reading Weird, a new Christian book recommended by my son, and then it was time for another round of tennis, this time between Dave and me and another Mazatlan couple. Like I said, close to perfect, but the best part of the day was at twilight when Dave and I celebrated our 39th anniversary at our favorite Mazatlan restaurant, Topolos.

Along with Brian and Stacia, we dined in an open-air courtyard, surrounded by a covey of proud waiters who stood at attention, waiting for any excuse to approach our table. I could write an entire article on the ambience and service and food -- not to mention the strolling saxophone player -- but that's not what this story is about.

Those are the things which I remember. This article is about what I forgot.

The day before this "perfect day in Paradise," as we call most days in Mazatlan, Stacia, Karen, Karen's son Caleb, and I had met at a church to help make 350 sandwiches and fill 350 plastic bottles with filtered water to take to the dump workers. We journeyed on a rickety bus to deliver the food to the "recyclers" who earn around $10 for each 10-12 hours of work.

Along the way, we stopped to hand out sandwiches, oranges, and water to the little children who congregated along the dusty roads, eager to receive their bi-weekly ration. We watched as the little ones came scampering barefoot, clapping and waving to their neighbors to leave their cardboard shanties to receive their free lunch.

Those at the dump were not nearly as energetic. Although a few of the younger ones sprinted to get in line, most of those who had spent years toiling in the sun -- leaving them haggard and stooped -- merely lumbered over to our bus, noticeably fearful of losing an opportunity to nab a plastic bag or a sheet of cardboard.

Stacia and Karen and I spent the bus ride home talking about ways to make a difference in these peoples' lives -- adopting families, building them better homes, even moving to Mexico to teach them, and we swore we would never forget the stench and the filth and the looks of hopelessness. We swore we wouldn't. But within 24 hours the memory of that day seemed to dull a little, and I wasn't quite as somber or incited as I had been when riding that bus and feeding those people, even though I knew that -- in the reality of God's kingdom -- the more perfect day was the one at the dump.

That was the day I need never forget.

Patty LaRoche
Patty LaRoche: Face to Face