Our plan started with 22 donors traveling to Guadalajara, Mexico to distribute 280 wheelchairs in the surrounding area. Due to the ravages and fear of Covid-19, our traveling group narrowed to nine. After checking the infection rates, and realizing that their state of Jalisco had half the rate of infections compared to our home state of Florida – we decided to go ahead.
The blessing of giving was never more apparent than during our trip to central Mexico. We had never delivered to this area of the country, so everything was a new experience to the Rotarians that helped arrange for the logistics and locate the neediest recipients. What transpired was one of the most impactful distributions of the dozen or more I have been a part of.
Our hosts obsessed about our comfort and were anxious for us to experience what their region had to offer. Cathedrals dating from the 1500’s, colonial cities, lakeside towns and modern skyscrapers, and an amazing Mariachi band were all part of our visit, but the central point, as always, were the distributions. They provided a luxurious motor coach to make the hours upon hours of traveling the most comfortable possible.
Five separate distributions spread over three days provided an incredible emotional experience. The youngest recipient was three, and the oldest was Margarita at 101. The eldest asked if we could come to her home so that she could make fresh tortillas for us, now that she had the mobility that a wheelchair provides.
In the agricultural town of Ameca, we met Angel, a young man of 32 years old. He stood out for a couple of reasons: his “Iron Maiden” tee shirt, a plethora of tattoos, and an infectious energy. He had lost his legs in a motorcycle accident six months earlier, and Chair the Love and the Wheelchair Foundation provided him his first wheels since that day. He now saw his life changing in an incredible way. He could return to work, hang out with his friends, and be part of community. His wife, a beautiful lady with a smile almost as big as Angel’s, was so happy that she would be freed up of worrying about getting him to the doctor and out of the house.
In Ajijic, a magical town on Lake Chapala, Jasilisco, a twenty two year old who lost a leg to diabetes, started popping wheelies a few minutes after being seated in his new red chair, and his wife commented that they could now go dancing together!
When we stood at our final event, facing 86 wonderful people, the attendees were asked to stand when possible for the playing of the Mexican national anthem, and my most emotional moment happened. There on the front row was a 82 year old man, whose legs had had multiple surgeries, pushing against the armrests of his new chair and struggling to stand. With help from his daughter, he rose, and stood ram-rod straight and proud, with tears streaming down his face, hand on his heart.
This was followed by the singing of the US anthem, and with only nine of us to fill the large gymnasium with the joy in our hearts, it never sounded or felt better, or more right. Two countries, both geographically in North America, united in a way that politics could never accomplish, joined together with love and thankfulness that will never be forgotten. God indeed blessed America this weekend – both the US and Mexico.
I cannot thank enough the hundreds of donors that made this trip possible, and would encourage each of you to find your own way to give the gift of mobility. I hope that at least once, you can come with us on a future distribution trip to feel the emotions of what your gift means to the entire family. In their own words, “Muchas gracias con todo nuestro corazón.”