by Jeanne Jacoby Smith, McPherson, KS
Day 7: Back to Tegucigalpa–“Quduriape”
Quduriape Perez was our Christmas star. But more about this little girl later ….
The word about PET-Kansas wheelchair distributions had spread through adjoining neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa. Another 23 people were identified to receive them if we were willing to do it. Instead of relaxing, our last morning in Honduras would be a hurried one trying to distribute more PETs.
This posed a formidable challenge since the average assembly time was three PETs per hour, and our plane was leaving for Kansas at noon. Fortunately, with a week of experience our men reached their zenith at four PETs per hour. Every minute, at this point, counted.
Whether the sun, or one of us, got up first that last day, I don’t remember, but whichever arose first roused the rest of us. We tackled the remaining PETs that Ashley had in storage and gave them away as fast as recipients arrived. The courtyard was crowded. Theo, Matt, and Sam riveted PETs together at breakneck speed. Sherylyn distributed food and small Bibles while Chris, Jessica, and Rosie, with the help of church members, sorted and gave away hundreds of pounds of used clothing used to pack the PETs. Kirby made fine-tuned adjustments for each PET recipient. Student ministers from Baxter College pitched in to help. Josue, our photographer, snapped recipients’ photos while I took notes on their stories.
Before we left Tegucigalpa that last morning, I was moved by a frail grandfather sitting quietly in a pew with his little granddaughter propped obediently at his side. The child, Quduriape Perez, only 6 yrs. old, was crippled by polio. Her left leg was permanently bent to the right, and her right leg, a shortened stub, curled under her skirt with a deformed foot peeking out from the hem.
Sadly, the child’s name was not on our list of those identified to receive a PET.
We asked Quduriape and her Grandpa if they could wait.
We told them if someone failed to show up, we would give Quduriape that PET.
Grandpa and little Quduriape waited patiently on the sidelines. We assembled dozens of PETs and gave them away as fast as their new owners appeared. It seemed like everyone was coming. I felt badly for the child so innocent and charming. The grandfather’s sublime disposition gave an air of humble confidence. The child mimicked his gentle demeanor.
The morning wore on. Finally, it appeared that little Quduriape with her semi-sweet smile, so used to disappointment that she might have gone home without a PET as contentedly as she had come, would have her heart’s desire.
I continued my chores. At one point, I glanced over and saw Quduriape sitting alone. Her Grandpa had disappeared. I wondered why he left at a time she needed him most.
Some minutes later, Grandpa came rushing in with a large bag of cucumbers. He handed them to me. I felt awkward receiving them on behalf of our group, knowing they represented an important part of their diet. Yet his was a gift of love, a heart-felt thank you that even God, let alone we, would not have dared to refuse.
I choked back tears and recited my mantra, “Dios le bendiga, mi amigo.” Then turning to little Quduriape, I repeated, “Dios le bendiga, Quduriape.” To this day, her sweet smile and gentle demeanor are etched on my mind, along with a compulsion to do more for others in my heart.
As our plane took off over the Pacific Ocean, I reflected on little Quduriape and wondered why her Grandpa handed the cucumbers to me. I hadn’t done anything special except get their story and try to connect. “Que es su nombre? Quantos anos? Que es su problem?” I had asked in my rudimentary Spanish. Simple questions. Simple answers. Nothing more than the duties that any of our crew fulfilled that morning.
Yet because we cared, I have a very strong feeling that travelers from PET-Kansas made a significant difference in the lives of all the Quduriapes that we met that week.
Yes, for me, “Christ-mass” came in April this year.
Title: “For Me, Christmas Came in April This Year” by Jeanne Jacoby Smith, McPherson, KS. Previously published in The McPherson Sentinel, McPherson, KS, Dec. 2009