Sometimes it's hard when you can't help everyone.
As the winter season approaches, we get more requests for help. Yes, there is an actual winter here in Ensenada - It's no Ontario winter, but it does get colder and rainer, especially as our weather patterns seem to get even stranger these days, we've had wetter winters. When rain hits us, the drainage systems are terrible, many houses are equipped with inadequate roofs, and many field workers are left unemployed. Many days in the winter season people are cold. wet. hungry.
The other day a tired, weary, couple came to the gate of the camp. Before I had a good 'excuse'. When I wasn't able to speak spanish very well I didn't usually have to tackle the tough gate conversations. We strive to help people in a sustainable, empowering, "hand up" not "hand out" kinda way. We work behind local pastors - equipping them to be the front line. We typically don't keep extra food to hand out at the camp or try to avoid taking on direct requests from families who come with needs to the camp. We desire to work in partnership and community with our pastors. We desire to be about relationship with people, not just give them what they need and never see them again. And even with that aside, we don't have the resources to help everyone. We can't keep up with all the needs. there will never be enough food to hand out. there will never be enough clothes to offer. there will never be enough money to fix all the roofs and houses.
Sometimes when people come asking for money or food, I gently explain what we can or cannot offer and I carry on with my day. Sometimes I'll offer what I personally can or although we don't encourage handing out food - will search around for some leftovers to offer them something. But these people come and go. And I carry on.
But back to the tired, weary couple the other day. It was a rainy cold day. They looked like they may have walked a ways to get here. They began to timidly share their story. Desperate. Hopeless. Tired. It wasn't a crazy drastic story - one that sadly I hear too often. Their house's roof isn't good - has leaks and when it rains the rain was pouring down unto their bed. Their daughter was getting sick from the rain. The father could barely speak from a terrible cold. I pulled in a fellow staff member into the conversation and began to explain our limitations of what we could do and suggested some next steps to get connected with some help. He understood we maybe couldn't do anything but he explained he was just desperate. He needed to do something, anything he could to help his family. He began to weep.
My heart ached.
I wanted to gather my friends together, grab some materials from the shop, jump in a truck and just fix the roof.
I wanted to buy some blankets and prepare a pot of soup for them.
I wanted to tell them everything was going to be okay.
But I couldn't.
But we did pray for them. Hugged them. Found some food for them. Gave them some phone numbers. Took down their information.
Hopefully gave them some hope.
I guess that's what it's about right?
Maybe we can't fix everyone's roof, but we can offer something. Time. A smile. A hug. A cup of coffee. Dignity.
I definitely prefer the moments where we hand over the keys to a new house. and everything feels perfect. at least for that moment.
But the tough ones, the ones where the couple has to walk away empty handed, remind me of why Im here.
The ache motivates me.
It reminds me there's more to do.
And there's always something we can offer.