Let me tell you more about the Juana that Denis mentioned in his blog a few weeks ago. After getting past her amazing ability to walk on the broken sidewalks and rough cobblestone streets with no feet, as well as her dexterous use of her arms that have no hands, we realized that her less obvious strength is her very strong and sweet spirit. We no longer see any disability in her, but perhaps because of that challenge, it has given birth to her great strength? I don’t know.
Juana is in the fourth grade and has three sisters and one brother. Her mother works in the market at the bus terminal selling hot corn on the cob. Sometimes after school (ends at 1pm) Juana goes to help her mother at her booth. Occasionally she can be seen downtown, gently and quietly discretely asking for money from passersby. I have to tell you, I don’t know how anyone could refuse her with such a bright light in her eyes coupled with her obvious ability to overcome an extreme disability, it’s inspiring. She has no feet, so her shoes hold her legs. How she can walk, I do not understand.
A few weeks ago, Juana saw Heather and I in a coffee shop (our other office) and waved to us through the window. We invited her to sit with us, as she would not presume to come into the restaurant. She sat with us, sipped her orange juice and in her soft-spoken manner, conversed about school, her family and what she liked to do to have fun. Soccer and playing with dolls are her favorite fun activities. It is a testament to the human spirit to consider this child with no feet enjoys playing soccer. How spoiled and ungrateful I felt in her company.
I was truly humbled to hear this child talk so lightly about the journey of her life. I felt like all of my life challenges and any discouragement I suffered were fairly insignificant next to hers. My falls in life and subsequent recoveries are clumsy and lack any grace next to her acceptance of life’s facts and how she has risen to meet them.
I have been often told before that the measure of one’s spiritual attainment can be measured by the ability to bear suffering. Juana, in her simple and gentle manner, certainly has suffered in many ways. Heather told Juana that she had tripped and fell on the sidewalk today. Juana showed Heather the scars on her knees from her falls. How many times has this child fallen and got up again? I sincerely hope I can continually rise as this child has and maintain such a dignity and sweet gratitude for life. There are many life teachers and she is certainly one for me.
PS Heather and I did not see Juana before we left Antigua. I wanted to have a photo of her sweet face to document that it is possible in life to remain heart-centred and happy despite life’s deep and difficult challenges. We wish her the best of life.