Oscar, our host for our Mexico distribution, and the future Rotarian Governor of Central Mexico, whispered in my ear, “I have a surprise for you in ten minutes.” We were under a large cabana, celebrating the success of our final distribution of 86 chairs in the agricultural city of Ameca. There were nine representatives of Chair the Love, and about a dozen local Rotarians. The lunch was prepared under the guidance and sponsorship of the city’s mayor and his wife.
An 82 year old lady prepared fresh tortillas on the grill, and pots of vegetables, chicken mole and pork stew were laid out in our honor. The tequila was flowing and friendships were cemented by multiple toasts, most of which were offered in broken English and Spanish. In our group from Florida was Augie Byllott, an ambassador of Chair the Love and donor of multiple containers of chairs along with Jason Debono, the President of CTL, his wife Christina, Glen and Loida Mather, Barbara Welch, and Grace Nelson. We also had some volunteers, and some people who were new to CTL, Rob and Kim Gundling. Rob happens to not only be the owner of a successful IT company, but also a passionate singer and piano player. He had shared his talent multiple times while we passed the time on long bus rides between five distributions around Guadalajara during the prior three days.
After giving away more than 200 chairs and meeting hundreds of families and recipients, we were enjoying the opportunity to reflect on what was accomplished over the past days together. I couldn’t imagine what further surprises our host had up his sleeve.
We heard it first. The blast of trumpets and the unmistakable voices of a truly professional Mariachi band. Eight talented musicians marched down the road and to our cabana. They shared the local music with a gusto and pride in a setting that is hard to describe. After about five rousing songs, they took a break, and the lead singer and guitarist asked if he could address our group. He told us that only a few short hours ago, his wife was one of the 86 people in the local gymnasium that had received the gift of a wheelchair – and he wanted to provide us with the blessing of his music. It made the next few hours together even more special, but particularly for Rob from our group.
Rob had been a donor before, but with the gentle persuasion of his friend and neighbor, Jason Debono, decided to travel to Mexico with his wife to experience a distribution first hand. Although Rob has played in many venues and performed multiple genres of music, one of his secret desires was to perform with a professional Mariachi band. There, in the garden of a beautiful hacienda, Rob’s dream was fulfilled. The joy of Rob’s performance not only brought tears to his eyes, but to the band members as well.
Having been on over a dozen distributions before, the best part is observing the impact it has, especially for the first time, on donors that get to experience the joy of gifting first-hand. As Rob and Kim can vouch, be prepared for the most meaningful trip you can imagine, and making friends you will never forget.