Our plan started with 22 donors traveling to Guadalajara, Mexico to distribute 280 wheelchairs in the surrounding area. Due to the ravages and fear of COVID-19, our traveling group narrowed to nine. After checking the infection rates of the state of Jalisco and realizing that they had half the rate of infections than did our home state of Florida, we decided to go ahead and make the worthwhile journey.
The blessing of giving was never more apparent than the experience of our trip to Central Mexico. We had never delivered to this area of the country, so everything was a new experience for both our group and the local Rotarians that helped arrange the logistics of the trip. What transpired was one of the most impactful distributions of the dozen or more that I have been a part of.
Our hosts were not only obsessed with our comfort, but they were more than excited to show us what their region had to offer. They even provided a luxurious motor coach to make the hours upon hours of traveling throughout Jalisco the most comfortable possible. We had the privilege of experiencing cathedrals dating from the 1500s, colonial cities, lakeside towns, modern skyscrapers, and an amazing Mariachi band, but the central point, as always, was the distributions.
Five separate distributions spread over three days provided an incredibly emotional experience for us all. The youngest recipient was three, and the oldest, a woman named Margarita, was 101 years old. She asked if we could come to her home, so she could make fresh tortillas for us now that she was mobile – this was her first wheelchair.
In the agricultural town of Ameca, we met Angel, a young man of 32 years old. He stood out for a couple of reasons – his “Iron Maiden” tee-shirt, a plethora of tattoos, and an infectious energy. He had lost his legs in a motorcycle accident six months earlier and had not been mobile since. Chair the Love and the Wheelchair Foundation had the honor of providing him with his first wheelchair. He now saw his life-changing in an incredible way. He could return to work, hang out with his friends, and be part of the community. His wife, a beautiful lady with a smile almost as big as Angel’s, was so happy that she would be freed of worrying about getting him to the doctor and out of the house.
In Ajijic, a magical town on Lake Chapala, Jalisco, a 22-year-old who lost a leg to diabetes, started popping wheelies a few minutes after being seated in his new red chair, and his wife commented that they now could go dancing together!
When we stood at our final event, facing 86 wonderful people, the attendees were asked to stand when possible, for the playing of the Mexican National Anthem – my most emotional moment happened. There on the front row was an 82-year-old man, whose legs had undergone multiple surgeries, pushing against the armrests of his new chair, struggling to stand. With help from his daughter, he rose, and stood ramrod straight and proud, with tears streaming down his face, hand on his heart.
This was followed by the singing of the US Anthem – with only nine of us to fill the large gymnasium with the joy in our hearts. It never sounded or felt better, or more right. Two countries, both geographically in North America – united in a way that politics could never accomplish, joined together with love and thankfulness that will never be forgotten. God indeed blessed America this weekend – both the US and Mexico.
I cannot thank enough the hundreds of donors that made this trip possible. I would encourage each of you to find your own way to give the gift of mobility. I hope that at least once, you can come with us on a future distribution trip to feel the emotions of what your gift means to the entire family. In their own words, “muchas gracias con todo nuestro corazon”.