It only takes one person

American FlagWhen I unfurl our American flag to hang out front, I often recall our first year in Honduras. We lived in Tela, on the north coast (on the Caribbean). The pervasive poverty had hit me hard and I felt impotent in the face of all the deprivation surrounding us. What was my offering among so many needs? When a U.S. Navy ship docked at the banana loading docks as part of a friendship effort by the Navy, I gained an insight.

The crew brought shoes and clothing personally collected in the States, and they shared freely throughout the community. They used their weekend liberty (time off) going around town to repair a roof for a widow, fix a door, or help in any way they could find. Several sailors painted the school where we taught. Our two teenage daughters drew the interest of a couple of junior officers and we ended up hosting all the officers for a delightful, encouraging dinner. Before the ship left the next day they gave us a tour, along with locals who had been impressed with the sailor’s generosity and behavior.

We stood on the beach as they shoved off. With a lump in my throat, I watched the American flag wave. I was proud of those boys. Proud of our Navy. Proud of my country. And I’d never been so proud of the red, white and blue. I covered my heart, and had to hold myself back from belting out the National Anthem.

A student during the height of the Vietnam years, jaded by watching the assassinations of our president, John F Kennedy, presidential candidate, Bobby Kennedy, and peaceful civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., along with the lies and deceptions of Watergate, it had been a long time since I’d been proud of my country.

Here I stood, on foreign soil, savoring the values that had made our country great.

That make the United States of America a place many still struggle to immigrate to.

Not speeches and politicians,
not railroad magnates
or corporate giants.
Not fat wallets
Or impressive churches.
Not grand houses
Or flashy cars
Or well-lined retirement accounts.
Not stardom
Or notoriety
Not tall buildings or big cities
or luxurious shopping centers.

Over two hundred years ago, it was simply people, of many nationalities, unnamed individuals who worked hard, but always had time, energy and “a little to spare” for someone in need.

I believe it remains the only way for the United States to be a great country, a nation with a future.

My husband and I were on a road trip a few days ago and listened to an awful audio book. (We kept thinking it would get better.) But one character’s viewpoint was worth the listening time.

Each one is valuable, or no one is valuable.

Wherever you are, whatever your country, as a citizen of this great Earth, tune in to opportunities before you, and around you, for lending a hand.

For caring.
For affirming each person as worthy, made in the image of God.
Even if you all you have to share is a touch or a smile.

It doesn’t really take a whole village. One person can make all the difference.
One teacher.
One neighbor.
One friend.
One stranger.

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’ . . .
‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

Matthew 25: 35,36,40 MSG

Has one person made a big difference in your life?
Have you acted to bless someone who never expected it?

1000 Voices for Compassion

There is a movement afoot among the blogging community to stir our readers toward greater compassion.

Crystal Cook's photo.


I’m on board.

As a shy child I was a watcher, and still am.

I see the older sister trying to smile brightly, while everyone fussed over her little sibling, the one who stole her place in the family.

I see the hurt and withdrawal on the woman’s face after her partner cuts her off and puts her down.

I see the homeless man, sunken in on himself as he pushes his cart, all his earthly possessions.

I see the young teen waiting near the high school for a ride home. He doesn’t fit, no crowd to belong to. He plugs in and tunes out, his smartphone his only friend. Does he pretend to be texting, trying to make people around think someone wants to hear from him?

I see the woman who slips in the back, and leaves early, so she won’t have to feel the emptiness of friendship swirling around, leaving her out.

I see the teen girl – way more of her than I’d like – trying so hard to matter, not knowing she’s worth so much more than skin and sex.

I see the woman with the scarf tied round her head, holding tightly to this life as chemo gives her hope, but steals her strength, and more.

I see all of that on one, normal day in an affluent, safe town in Florida.

Bario Los Fuertes from water Roatan , Honduras, CA
Bario Los Fuertes

What I saw in Honduras, like most third world countries, was often very painful.

Gaunt women hauling firewood, balancing a bucket of water, two or three bare-footed little ones trailing behind.

A girl not yet a woman giving birth on an earthen floor, her walls found-cardboard, and her only companions huge roaches.

A man who can’t find his way home after drinking all night, slashing his friend with a machete.

A little boy burned over 75% of his body from a kerosene cook “stove” made from a large can.

A lame diabetic woman left to her own resources, until the stench of gangrene in her leg drives her neighbors to call for help, too late.

Dona Estefana, Bario Brick Bay, Roatan, Honduras
Dona Estefana

All around the world we can recognize pain, if we have the eyes to see.

But only if we are willing to feel, because we can’t really see if we aren’t willing to feel, too.

I know, we don’t really want to think about and see children tricked or kidnapped into sexual slavery.

Or masses of people abused because of the color, gender, or social status they were born into.

Thousands driven out of their homes, and many murdered, in the name of religion, their children growing up in refuge camps.

And what of the pain we can’t see with our eyes?

Only the heart sees the pain

of the death of a child or mate,

of miscarriage,

of bareness,

of abortion,

of child abuse covered and ignored for years,

the singular pain of being “other,”

of being alone.
Woman in Switzerland by Jack H Thompson

Because I see, I can so easily feel overwhelmed.

After about four months in Honduras, I collapsed and cried, “I don’t want to see one more poor, miserable person!” My husband reminded me that taking care of the world is not my job. Not even Tela, Honduras. I can only change what God puts right in front of me to do.

So, with open eyes, I look, I see, I feel.

For many, just being SEEN is a gift.

Sometimes I can take action, but more often all I can do is care, and pray.

And we can all benefit from a prayer, can’t we?

To drive away the darkness, strike one match.

Take out your heart of compassion.


Light one candle, however you can.

Are you on board?

Do I trust you?

Way back in the 80’s and 90’s, we lived in Honduras for eight years, the last six on Roatan, one of the Bay Islands that divers flock to from all over the world. Vacationing there is fabulous, but living and working in “paradise” was a different scene.

Our house. once a coconut trading post
Our house. once a coconut trading post

Going to "church" at Don Domingo's house in Brick Bay
Going to “church” at Don Domingo’s house in Brick Bay

When we moved there, communication was by marine radio (“Cornerstone” was our call sign) and we traveled over coral rubble by public “chicken bus” or on our used motorcycle with no shocks. Because of ruts from heavy rains, people drove on the smoothest part of the road (“smooth” is euphemistic), no matter which side. Every time we rounded a bend, I clung on the back of the motorcycle, sure we’d meet a car or bus head-on. At the entrance to town, a local carpenter displayed a hand-painted sign: “We make coffins.” I fully expected his services to be required one day, when I was splatted on the road. Nevertheless, I survived the other drivers as well as the bone-grinding bumps.

The first time I went to town to shop I burst into tears at the price of food on the Central American island. I learned to poke my head into any nook where someone might sell something edible, and to wait at the dock for the boat from the mainland with fresh carrots, tomatoes and cabbage.

Basics were available at Casa Warren in Coxen Hole, most of the time. Sugar would disappear about four months before Christmas. (I was told someone hoarded it to drive up prices before Christmas baking. I learned to stock up in September, if I could afford it.)

One year, flour was in such short supply that small bakers went out of business. When flour started trickling into the country, only registered bakers could buy it. Another time, no ketchup or canned tomato products were available for months.

I would drive two “towns” away for eggs. When the chickens molted and didn’t produce eggs, the farmer was forced to sell them as stewing hens. (He couldn’t afford to feed them when they weren’t producing.) We went without eggs until his next generation of chickens were laying again.

There was no fast food or prepared food, so meal prep was a long process, and clean-up seemed just about as long.

It’s been years since we left, but I still smile when I turn on the dishwasher and hear the purr of the machine working for me.

That is leading me to the point of all of this. Though we made wonderful friends (Hondurans are very genial people), witnessed miracles and experienced enough for a life-time of wonderful memories, there were hard times, especially in the last couple of years.

Our EMS service, air ambulance and decompression chamber treating Miskito divers ran us 24/7, our son struggled to learn, and our daughter encountered social stresses that worried me. With growing health problems, I began to sink.

J and Jane loading patient into ambulance
J and Jane loading patient into ambulance
ACW   our Cessna 172
ACW our Cessna 172

Mail call in our clinic
Mail call in our clinic
A visitor gave me a Twila Paris tape, with a song I played song over and over, for weeks, until I could finally say, “Yes. I trust you, Lord.”

We heard a reading today about Abraham taking his son Isaac to the mountain, obeying God and ready to sacrifice Isaac. I’ve had different reactions to the story, but today I’m struck with Abraham’s age when he finally had the promised son — way beyond child-bearing years for himself and his wife. Did it take that long because Abraham wouldn’t be able to say, “Yes,” until then?

Last week, in “Where do I Go?” I shared my burden of heartache for people I love. I encouraged myself, and you, to draw near to God.

Afterward, I wondered how many readers replied, “How?”

How do I say “Yes” to God? Will the road be as long as Abraham’s waiting for the heir to God’s promises?

I may wail, but then, like David, I remember. I recall what I’ve seen God do in my life in the past, and what I am certain he has promised.

“A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek; I want to drink God, deep draughts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive. I wonder, “Will I ever make it—arrive and drink in God’s presence?”
I’m on a diet of tears—tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
These are the things I go over and over, emptying out the pockets of my life. . . .
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.
When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you.” Psalm 42:1-6 The Message

That leads me to open my eyes to God’s “Yes” all around me. Right now.

“Yes!” because I have clean water, appliances to work for me, air conditioning, a roof that doesn’t leak and screens to keep out mosquitoes, easy to prepare food, and a refrigerator with electricity that will run day and night. I have friends and family that really love me. My broken hand is healing. My brother got a thumbs up from the cancer center. . . .

Every time the sun rises, the cardinal pair calls to each other, an orchid blooms, or cumulus clouds rise in the summer heat to bundle into beautiful rain clouds, God is saying “Yes!” Every time I hear my grandson sing to himself, or my granddaughter giggle with delight as she jumps on the trampoline, every time I connect with my daughter in Switzerland and another in New Jersey on cell phones, and we walk our dogs together, I feel God’s “Yes.” Every time I see my son cradle his daughter in the safety of his arms, or am cradled in the safety of my husband’s arms, I feel God’s “Yes.”

Look around you. Seek God’s “Yes!” for you.

What do you see?