|Mario getting around La Ceiba with the help of his friend Alfredo in 1993|
Mario lives in a chair. He got polio when he was seventeen, and he travels the roads of his hometown in that chair. I've had no contact with him for 10 years or more, but I see and hear him as if it were yesterday. First there is his remarkable smile, big teeth gleaming white against black face. And then there is his distinctive voice, baritone deep and strong. It's as though the strength no longer occupying his shriveled legs chose to take up residence in his vocal cords. It was never a surprise when Mario was coming to pay a visit as we could hear him a good distance before his arrival. And it wasn't his talking that broke the sound barrier, though his voice carried very well. It was his singing. Mario would sing as he made his way through the streets.
Did I mention that Mario is from Honduras? He lives in a barrio called La Julia, one of the poorest in the city of La Ceiba. I walked La Julia many times while living in Central America. Dirt roads with deep ruts are the norm there, and after a rain they are especially difficult to travel. Mario lives on the second floor of a very humble home. His arms are incredibly strong, and he uses them to pull himself up the steps. This is how he lives. Did I mention that he has a wonderful smile? And did I tell you he sings?
In two days we will celebrate Thanksgiving. I've been meditating a lot on gratitude. I pulled out my Bible Saturday night and read all the verses listed in the concordance under the word thanks. There are a lot of them, and I'll bet if I pulled one of Larry's big concordances off his book shelf I'd find lots more. I think God puts a pretty high priority on gratitude. So I've been asking myself how can I better express how grateful I am, especially to Him.
I learn a lot by example. I watch other people, and I learn from them. People like Mario for example. He gets polio when he's teenager, he lives in a poor neighborhood in a very poor country with little or no amenities. And what does he do? He smiles and he sings, genuinely grateful.
People like Mario inspire us. They remind us that no matter the circumstances of ones life, it's possible to live with appreciation and gratitude. And hopefully, their examples challenge us to do the same, allowing us the opportunity to impact others as they have us.
On that last trip to Honduras we asked a group of young people what or who most impacted them during their visit. I'll bet you already know the answer. The overwhelming response was, yep, you guessed it. Mario.
|Mario in 2000|