By Rich Reader and David Rizo
Sometimes the trials in a family seem greater than what our meager efforts can address.
Anselma is a 62-year-old woman who has 3 children that she says God is using to prove her strength and courage. Jose is 24 and is a special needs young man. He spends his day on his bed needing constant care; diapers, feeding, baths, etc. He does not know more than a few words and always seems to be demanding attention but lacks the ability to focus. Maria is the second daughter, and they think she has breast cancer. Maria has two daughters who are mute. Anselma’s other daughter is Berenice, and she has a daughter, Joselin, with leukemia.
While we cannot offer cures for these situations, we do what we can to lighten the burden. We help with medications, transportation to medical appointments, food baskets, and diapers. Our medical students have accompanied us to help assess what we can do. Anselma always asks for our prayers, and we do pray with her. They told us that Joselin has needed blood donors (one per month) for the last 6 years. Berenice, Joselin’s mother, says she sometimes gets so tired of the trials that she just wants to give up. But, her mother, Anselma, has been such a good role model in caring for Jose that it inspires her to keep going. We reached out to some of the youth in the parish and 4 volunteered the first week and two more the following week. So, we got a significant blood donation put in their blood bank. These youths got up very early, gave their time, lost wages, and donated blood without hesitancy.
Joselin, the child with leukemia, tells us that she would love to go to school like regular girls. But her mother says she is just too fragile. Joseline also tells us her favorite thing is to have her mother read her a story. She is blessed with the sense of hearing that her young cousins lack.
Another leukemia case is Natalie, who we met a year ago, when her mother, Maria, came to the church asking for help. She and her two daughters had just moved to Tijuana. We were able to provide, through our donors, food baskets, blankets, a cook stove and gas, dishes, and a table. Natalie, who was 10 at the time, was going through chemotherapy and had lost her hair. When we met her, it had grown back out half an inch, and she removed her hat to reveal the most enduring smile ever. This predated COVID, and we lost track of them when they relocated.
Then to our delight, they reappeared one day, and Maria asked us for medicine for her youngest daughter. She was so desperate and worried because the little girl was spitting up blood. We took them to a clinic and got a prescription, which turned out to help greatly, especially with Maria’s fears. Maria invited us to come for a visit where she revealed that the chemotherapy for Natalie has stopped working. She started to cry. One person got the children busy in the other room telling where to put each item in the food basket we brought. In the meantime, the mother quietly explained that times have been really challenging. Sometimes she does not have the two dollars for the bus fare to keep a medical appointment. She told us that Natalie senses her worries and tells her “Don’t worry mom, I’ll be fine.” But the doctors say different. The doctors want Natalie to have a procedure that involves the painful process of extracting samples from her bone marrow. We arranged for Maria to talk with our newest psychologist, Mildred, to help with coping.
Maria mentioned that when she takes Natalie to the hospital for treatments, they are in an area with other families with kids with leukemia. As the other families got to know Natalie and family, and realizing their hardships, they offered to pay to have Maria make snacks for them. This has turned out to be a helpful source of income, and equally important, a way to share the burdens.
Recently the mother showed us a beautiful altar the neighbors assembled at their house. She says it has been very helpful to have the Blessed Mother in whom to confide her sorrows and fears, and the girls love it. We are filled with gratitude that they again sought us out for help. Natalie’s plight has become our own.
Every year we try to do something special on Christmas. For example, last year a group went to a senior center and put on a dinner. This year there were two events. On December 24, the SEARCH for Parents group (an offshoot of our youth SEARCH program) set a goal of delivering meals to 80 people that are homeless. However, they managed to deliver 200 meals. The meals included bread, peanut butter, juice, ham, and some other items that you do not have to cook. They also gave out some toiletries and blankets. This is a ministry the group has been offering on a small scale throughout the year.
Angelica, who is our braille teacher, baked desserts for some of the people we visit. So Angelica and a small group of youths delivered the desserts on Christmas Day. People were really moved that a blind girl could make and decorate such beautiful pastries. One woman, Maria de Jesus, cried to think that someone would go to this trouble for her. One of her braille students, David also received a special cake.
Diego is one of the young adults who donated blood for Jocelyn (in the first story above). He is a recent graduate in our scholarship program in sports. He works part-time with the Oblates special needs school helping create physical activities for the children. Diego also recently got married.