On Friday mornings, we pray with the staff from the community center in Morro dos Macacos. While waiting for a few of the staff to arrive this morning, Jason and I were sitting around talking with some of the ladies that work in the kitchen. The conversation started with Fatima’s other job. Besides her day job as a full time cook for the community center, Fatima also works nights at a homeless shelter for families. This means that every other day of the week she hops a bus directly from the community center to this homeless shelter, where she spends the entire night awake, looking after these families. After this sleepless night, she returns to her rather thank-less job in the community center. She only sees her bed three to four days a week. As we sat and listened, she talked about the coffee pot that she drains every night, the fights that she has to separate, the drug addicts that she is constantly observing – and the way she talked about it all was so matter of fact, not one plea for pity. Suddenly, the conversation switched directions, and now the topic was teeth. Maria, the janitor, explained to the group that dentists do not scare her in the least. “Why would I worry about a little temporary pain in the mouth, when I’ve seen much worse in my days?” she asked rather rhetorically. Then, she made a pitch for a local dentist that will extract a tooth (yank is probably a better word for his technique) for R$ 5 (about $2.75 US). All the while, Dona Ana, the eighty year old project coordinator who can barely get out of her seat unassisted due to problems in her legs but somehow finds a way up that hill every day to serve the kids, just sat there listening and smiling.
It’s hard to feel like a man in a room full of women such as these. I get irritable when the heat messes with my sleep – even though I still get to sleep every night. When I go to the dentist, I get a local anesthetic – even though no one is talking about pulling teeth. I got bit by a dog here (below - not really), and, after consulting Web MD, I convinced myself that I had contracted rabies. I cannot even drink the water that these women drink because it upsets my constitution. I’m a pansy. I figure that I have a lot to learn from these ladies, who leave me both humbled and thankful that the Lord is gracious to both the strong and the hypochondriacs.