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Larry and the Lady

Most people in villages in Guatemala have to work hard to stay alive. There is no public assistance. There is no welfare. There is no old age assistance. When it comes to living when you are old, the only resource is your family and relatives, if you have them. If you do not have family to help you, you are on your own.

Larry Duffield watched the woman walk up the road toward the spot where the rig was set up. He could tell she was old but he could not say how old she might be. She was carrying a plastic sack, heavy with things from the market and she walked like she was slightly crippled. She was walking up hill toward her home, a thatched roofed, single room shack up beyond the rig beside the track that served as a road. Larry had seen her leave her home and come down the hill a few hours earlier. She had nodded and waved as she went on down the hill past the rig.

It was hot like it usually is in NE Guatemala. There was sometimes a little breeze that would stir the dust in the road, but not enough to feel refreshing. The rig had been there for a few days, steadily pounding its way to the cool clean water below ground. For the first couple of days, the village folks had gathered around watching, but when the water was not quickly obtained, they had drifted off to the things they usually do. For the women, that meant working in the homes or shelling corn or doing laundry in some creek or pond, and to the men and boys that meant doing nothing.

That is life in Guatemala. Women do most of the work that keeps a family alive; cooking, washing, hauling water, and tending to children and animals. The men usually cannot find work for money, but they do not help the women much. There are centuries of culture behind this division of labor and there is no pressure to change it.

Larry watched as the lady labored up the hill toward him. There was a lull in the drilling just then, and as the woman reached him, he stepped to her side and made motions to help her with her burden. For a fleeting moment he wondered if he might be breaking some cultural rule, but then he decided maybe it would give the men a hint or even shame them so they might help the woman a little in the future.

The lady smiled as she handed the sack to him, and he fell in walking beside her. Together they went on up the hill. They did not talk, because Larry does not speak Spanish and she did not speak English, but they communicated just the same, in the universal language of one person helping another.

At the top of the hill, as she took the bag from Larry she simply said, “Gracias.” That was all. She went on into the rude little building and Larry went back down the hill to the rig.

Water for Life brings the gift of clean water to people who need it. They cannot pay for it. They cannot even contribute. The only thing they have to give us is their thanks. That is all they have. But, it is enough.

If you would like to help someone to have a better life, please consider supporting our work in NE Guatemala.

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