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Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Running leaner
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Yes you can

The gift
It was the most fun 6 guys could have in a grocery store in Mexico. And I had fun watching them.

Y’know Christmas lasts beyond Dec. 25th in Mexico. People traditionally exchange gifts and celebrate until Jan. 6th. That’s the feast of the Epiphany when historically the three wise men visited the Christ child in the manger.

It got me thinking about gift giving that I had witnessed over the years in Mexico.

More than 20 years ago, there was a group of guys who all worked together. Some years there would be 10 guys. Other years, as many as 30 who all came down for a few days to fish with us in La Paz.

Over the years, they developed a tradition of gifting the community. Specifically, they would make a donation to the old folks nursing home in La Paz.

As one of them told me, “Everyone donates to the kids or the orphanages or the church, or poor. But everyone forgets the old folks!”

He was right.

In many families, grandparents stay with the nuclear family. Everyone lives together a long as they can. Often 2, 3 or even 4 generations all taking care of each other.

However, for whatever reason, there are many who have no one to care for them. They go to the old folks home.

If you ever have a chance to visit, it’s pretty depressing. No TV. No barbecues on the patio. No “bingo night” or “afternoon crafts.” No “day trips to the shopping mall” or “hair salon.”

Basically, these poor folks sit propped in a chair or leaning against a wall. Waiting. Watching. Last time I was there, no one was even talking. Many just stared blankly with barely any recognition.

It was like an old movie projector. You could hear the slight hum. But the projector light just wasn’t turned on.

Conditions are sparse. This isn’t Senior World by any stretch.

The caretakers seemed to care and did the best they could with limited resources, but there’s only so much that can be done.

In the few times I have visited, I never saw a visitor. The only visitor was permanent loneliness and solitude.

So, these group of guys started to make a point of doing something about it.

Every year, they would decide that one day of their fishing trip, no matter what they caught, all of their catch would be donated to the seniors. Quite a gift when it seemed like mostly all they ate were beans, rice and tortillas!

They would also take a collection up from their other co-workers.

Using the money, they would run through the grocery store. Each of the guys with an empty shopping cart!

In went produce!

In went milk and cheese!

In went whole turkeys and hams!

In went frozen bags of shrimp and fish!

In went big bags of beans and rice!

In went shampoo and soaps… socks… and underwear!

If you’ve ever seen “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and watched how things were literally sucked up by the Grinch with such glee, that’s how it was with these guys! It was fun to watch!

Carts were piled as high as could be and they laughed all the way, running up and down the aisles.

I spied one of the guys down one aisle happily packing cartons of beer and cartons of boxed wine as well as some cakes and pastries!

I looked at him quizzically.

He laughed and said, “Hey, they’re old. They ain’t dead! Might as well enjoy the time!”

Well, amen to that!

It took two vans to pack it all up.

Upon showing up at the senior’s home, it was indeed like Christmas.

Unloading the bags of boxes was better than watching kids unwrap presents! Some of them cried. Many of them hugged and shook our hands as they said “Gracias” over and over. And “Que Dios te bendiga.” (God bless you!)

At least for a moment, the lights came on in this small place in Mexico and in the lives of some forgotten folks.

And then… the first things they cracked open…

The beers and wine of course! And we had one with them then drove away with even bigger smiles. And it wasn’t from the beer.

• • • • •

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