We have some friends coming to visit from the States. They’ll be here in September, and asked me to help make their flight arrangements from Lima to Arequipa. So I went to the Plaza de Armas today, to buy some tickets at the Peruvian Airlines office.
There were towers of speakers everywhere in the plaza, as workers prepared for a concert of classical music and opera. While they worked, they took advantage of the huge sound system and played someone’s favorite music. It was pretty strange to walk across that Peruvian plaza to the familiar sounds of “old blue eyes” in English at 120 decibels.
So I mostly made the arrangements with the airline, with the exception of paying for the tickets, because the only person who handles plastic money was out to lunch, but would be back from 3 to 8pm. So off I went, knowing I’d be back in a few hours.
As I walked along Mercaderes, the pedestrian walkway leading away from the plaza, I spotted a new friend I see there often. He’s one of many beggars along that particular stretch, but one that stands out, at least to me. He’s a man of forty years or so, stout and fit. He’s well spoken and seems to be intelligent and well-educated.
But he has no legs.
He’d told me previously that he had his legs amputated, one after the other, due to thrombosis. Since those devastating surgeries, he’s also developed arthritis in his hands; the kind you can see and almost feel as you look at his terribly twisted and deformed hands.
As I stopped, sat and chatted with him today, the conversation wandered into handicapped access, which I noted is virtually non-existent in Arequipa. He explained to me that he lived in a second floor room, because all the first floor space in the surrounding area is used for businesses. He could not possibly afford a first floor apartment, if one could be found, and he needs to stay near the center, where the crowds of tourists are.
I hesitated, and then plunged forward with my question. He seems to be okay with me asking my dumb questions. “How do you manage to get to your second floor apartment? Who helps you?”
His answer: “I climb the stairs. It hurts my hands, but what can I do?”
I felt a little sick. I’ve prayed for this new friend, and of course I try to help him a little financially when I see him. He has a good attitude, given his circumstances.
But given his circumstances, my help doesn’t seem like much. I can’t pay his rent; I can barely pay my own. Outside of the safety and the secure cocoon of the culture that is the USA, the needs are overwhelming. A staggering, crushing weight that is simply too much to carry.
You can’t do it all, so you do what you can. God help us if we do nothing.