I've been here a full year. It's said that in another year San Francisco will have multiple phone lines installed in town. That means that any family who can afford it can have a phone in their house. For now Renald continues to make his rounds by bicycle delivering messages. Renald is young, cheerful and flirtatious, stopping along the curb, after delivering a message, to hear the latest gossip. His messages take him to most corners in our small town; so he stays well informed, though not always accurate. He is rumored to have been seeing Silvia - though I don't put much merit in small town gossip. They were seen sitting together on the steps that lead to her cement block house. But then, Renald is at most corners; and, when she isn't at choir practice, Silvia is usually out on her front steps. It only makes sense that the two would talk and that small town eyes would see. Hernan, Silvia's brother, (I wrote of Silvia and Hernan last April) has taken a job in a city somewhere. Now Silvia keeps house, while her other brother tends to the farm. She has survived her father's death last April, and her mother's death before, coming out strong and independent. She joined the choir and, in this month of the rainy season, she carries her umbrella at just the perfect angle to make it a thing of beauty and not the necessity it is. Two days ago, when I visited her front steps, she was consoling a young man crying because his girlfriend had just broken up with him. With a voice that was realistic rather than romantic, and stable rather than harsh, she stated, "Sometimes, in this life, you can't have what you want." It's a calm acceptance to live what is, and not long for what is not.
Estella dropped by the rectory on Sunday before Mass. If you'll recall, I wrote of her last January when her mother was sick. She's fifteen and had to care for her mother and seven younger siblings rather than attend school. I hadn't seen Estella in well over a month; so we hugged and kissed on the cheek, as is Salvadoran custom. She looked good: her clothes were clean, hair down and shoulders back. I asked about her mother. "For the grace of God", Estella responded, "she is in the house but well again." This is wonderful news since the health promoters I traveled with did not predict her recovery. In January, "God willing", Estella will begin the ninth grade. The next January, with the help of sponsors in the US, she might go on to high school in another town.
During my anniversary week, the rains were heavy. That, compounded with El Salvador's severely deforested mountainsides, caused three landslides, blocking the dirt road leading out of (or into, depending on your perspective) San Francisco. When we heard the 5am bus coming into town, there was a quiet sense of relief that the road wasn't blocked from the previous nights rain. I celebrated my anniversary here on August 25th, a day that the road was not blocked. Nor was it blocked the following day. On that day a friend of mine was able to take a bus to the hospital in San Salvador (a luxury most country women do not receive) to deliver a healthy baby girl that evening. She returned to town two days later, claiming the child she held in her arms was not hers. Since she is heavy set, she could keep her pregnancy a complete secret. She is 23. She already has two children. She has no husband, no family, no job, no education, no house. She and the two children share one cot the church gave her. That night she came to Father Rafael and me to tell us the truth: the baby is hers and that she cannot possibly give her the life she deserves. She had heard me tell of the many couples in the United States waiting for years to adopt a baby. She knew that a childless couple, who receives these letters, had written me to say that their house and hearts are open if I should know of a child in need. My friend loves her daughter with an intensity of unconditional, selfless love that I have never seen. I have known the kind of love that wants to be present with, to know, to be proud of and to receive affection. I hope that I can learn the kind of love my friend has for her daughter: a love that lets go.
I contacted the couple in the United States and they are ecstatic. Meanwhile I spent three weeks as a full time foster mom. (loved it) The couple came, as soon as their passports could be in order, to meet the birth mother and their daughter, and to baptize her Maritta Daun. Salvadoran adoptions are difficult. During the war, children in conflicted areas were kidnapped and adopted to foreign couples who thought they were legal adoptions. Only recently has it become evident that the children were taken, often violently, from their rightful parents. (An interesting article on the subject appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Feb. 1999) In order to eliminate any corruption, El Salvador has made its adoption procedures much more complex. Our Salvadoran lawyer has told us the adoption will probably take six months.
We have found a wonderful family in San. Salvador for Maritta Daun to stay with. I will not move back to the United States until the adoption is worked out. I will make a trip to Ohio November 4th - 29th to raise awareness of El Salvador's needs as well as do fundraising for Salvadoran students to attend high school. For anyone in Ohio, or closeby, who has a group who would be interested in hearing about my experience here, I would be happy to share my impressions. Please feel free to call my parents, John and Rita, and they will try to set my schedule in order. Also, anyone and everyone, please feel free to call and chat on the days I'm home. I look forward to making the personal contact.
I hear that there are two theologies in El Salvador. There is one that says that God is in control, that suffering leads to a stronger faith, and that the focus should not be on this world but on that which is eternal. And there is the other that claims that as God's children we should want what is good and pleasant in this world, that suffering is not to be tolerated, and that we need to take control of our lives. One hears what seems to be a hint of the first theology in Silvia's statement. "Sometimes, in this life, you can't have what you want." And one gets a feel for the other in Estella's determination to go to school. But I find that true theology, the one that led Christ to accepting the cross, to be that of my friend. She had done it all by bringing this beautiful child into life. She has taken control of her daughter's future. Letting her go hurts more than all the suffering she has known in her life. And in the final analysis, because her child's future is more important than her own, she knows that sometimes in this life, you can't have what you want.