Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hail to the Shriners

On Sunday, before the heavy storm, I went to volunteer at a clinic given by the local Shriner's
organization, one of whom I know. Over the course of two days, the doctors and technicians from the hospital in Springfield, MA saw over 300 children who all had different orthopedic problems, some were in wheel chairs, some on crutches. The Shriner's are the ones who wear those red fez(es?) (s) on their heads. I had never met them before.

As a female, I would not have been allowed to join since one has to be a Mason first. And so I would naturally have a resentment. But now I doff my non-existent fez to these people, both the one's who came down from MA for three days (no beach time, no golf games, no time for play) and the ones on the ground who organized it. All the services were completely free to the recipients. Serious cases who would benefit from surgery may be sent to the hospital in Springfield, placed with a local family who cares for them, and operated on. Often this requires several trips. Again - no cost at all to the recipient.

The clinics in the DR are ongoing. Word of them travels via "the coconut vine" from one family to another. I sat with one family who had come from four hours away, who had heard of it through the family of another child.

There is at least one doctor connected with the team who goes to Haiti but there are difficulties organizing clinics there as the facilities are lacking. There are problems as well in getting Haitian children here, across the border since there are visas to be procured and host families must be found who will shelter the children.

Since most of the kids had two or three adults with them, the waiting room of the local rehabilitation center was crowded. I asked what I should do, hoping that there were others whose Spanish vocabulary included far more words than mine - I am not even sure of the words for "elbow" and "knee" , although I had brought my trusted dictionary with me.

Fortunately there were lots of volunteers, the clinic had already been running for a day and a half . So I suggested that I start singing to the kids. My one crowd pleaser is "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" which can be extended rather infinitely. Both kids and parents participated and after four or five rounds, we had produced the first Shriner's Rehab Chorus.

What continues to strike me again and again both here and in Haiti, is the amazing good humor and cheerfulness of the people. They have a deep patience with waiting and a centered calm that is lacking in the frenzy of the "developed" world. I remember years ago, waiting for hours in the Mexico City airport late at night for a friend, surrounded by people who were content to just sit. At the time, I felt very "superior" with my big book. Very "productive". Now I am in awe of the ability to "just sit."

When you ask a Dominican how they are, the answer is often: "Fine, thanks be to God." I have never heard that in the States.

As is usual, I got more than I gave. And I share with you now the words for
La Cucharaca -(you most probably know the tune) written down for me, very proudly, by a young boy of eight, whose arms were connected backwards from his elbows:

La cucharca, la cucaracha
Ya no puede caminar
Pourque le falta
Porque le falta
La partida principal

Una cucaracha grande
Se cajo en un hormiguero
Y las hormigas calientes
La partita le comierion

_ (The cockroach now can not walk -- because he is missing the main part--
A big cockroach fell onto an anthill and the fire ants ate it)

Now form a Conga line.
And Dance.

The Rains have ended.

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