Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Man Named Melvin

Melvin is deaf and lives in a world where it is extra hard to have such a disability. However, he seems genuinely happy, as evidenced by his wide and enthusiastic smile and frequent laughter.

He lives with his wife and four daughters in Danta Uno, Honduras. We visited them during the day where the mother shared with us her concerns that Melvin has a difficult time getting work because of his deafness. Ironically, Melvin was working for us at the time and was amazing the students with his strength and endurance. He was outlasting the meat-eating college students who were, themselves, working very hard. (They moved about 20,000 pounds of rocks in two weeks.)

Melvin worked intelligently too, and contributed several good ideas to the construction of the water intake system of the pico hydroelectric generator. For those that did not speak Spanish, Melvin was actually easier to communicate with than the other village men, because he was used to communicating with hand signals. He was soon everybody's favorite.

Blaine brought a few little toys to give away to the youngest children. Melvin's youngest daughter was cautious in her approach to this gringo grande, perhaps a bit scary because he is taller than anyone else in the village, but the lure of plasticy shiny things overcame her fears. In that way we are all alike, I suppose.

Do you see the edge of her smile?! I caught it just as she put on her little bracelet. Please feel free to lavishly praise my skills as a photographer.

Later in the week, we revisited Melvin's family (and several visiting friends) under the light of our electricity. It was deeply rewarding to be in his home at night when the lights were on. Only a year ago this room would have been illuminated by kerosene-burning "candils" that belch soot and give only a fraction of the light for a similar costs to our electricity.

Times like these enable me to "not grow weary in doing good", despite the days of unbelievable heat and humidity, despite 20,000 pounds of rocks, or days of frustration when nothing works right, or having six flat tires on two vehicles in two weeks. This gringo grande feels satisfied. I, like Melvin, am happy.

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