A Man and a Shovel

Yesterday I saw a man repairing the steep downhill path to his house. He was moving gravel from one area to another presumably to fill the holes and make walking easier. He was using a shovel that was about a third worn down in a ragged patterned edge. I doubt the shovel was sharp enough or big enough to scoop much gravel. He was filling a 5 gallon plastic bucket and carrying it uphill and dumping it on the path. It was very hot and I was dripping with sweat with just the effort of walking, slowly. This scene made me think. It made me think a lot. First of all, how difficult work is without the proper tools. And then, how difficult it is to have the proper tools when you live in a house accessible only by a steep gravel path. The scene also made me think about biases and stereotypes. This man was anything but the lazy, Hispanic man taking a siesta on a hot afternoon. What other stereotypes do we hold, overtly or covertly, about people of other cultures? When you think of Honduras, what do you think of? Do you think of poverty? Despair? Backwards? Honduras is considered the poorest nation in Central America and the least developed. Years of U.S. supported military rule and, more recently, U.S. ignored gang rule, has left the country in poverty and fear. Yet, the people are anything but desperate. They possess a graciousness and kindness that I seldom experience in the United States. This must be where the term “they’d give you the shirt off their backs” came from.
Last week my husband and I were looking for a translator. A man came to the office to meet us. His name is Rossel and he is the father of Rossel, Junior, a student at CEVER the vocational school where we work. He lived in the United States for 15 years and he understands all the idioms and nuances of the English language. Rossel sat in on a meeting with us to help us with some sensitive topics. When we were done, we said, how much do we owe you? He replied that his son is a student here and he wants to give what he can to help the school. He expects no payment. I don’t know anything about his financial situation, but I am sure he struggles to pay his daily expenses like most families.
What stereotypes do Hondurans hold about people from the United States? They believe that North Americans are rich, all of them. I can hardly argue with that stereotype because, by comparison, most North Americans enjoy a higher standard of living than the average rural Honduran. For example, even America’s poorest people have access to services such as homeless shelters, food shelves and emergency medical care. I tell people here that there are poor people in the U.S. There are homeless people and people with untreated physical and mental illness. Hondurans are surprised to hear that.
Honduras has an unemployment rate of around 40%. Do you remember when the U.S. unemployment rate was nearing double digit? Americans considered it a national crisis. Yet in Honduras it is the rare family that enjoys two incomes. Even people that have jobs often suffer months when their employer doesn’t pay or an illness prevents them from going to work, decimating any financial progress they may have enjoyed.
Yet I see a strong, resilient population. They make due. They don’t expect to be pampered and served. They are not materialistic and they don’t complain. Well, not many.
Seeing the man scooping up gravel to repair his walk made me wonder about his life, his family, his finances. And it made me wonder about mine.DSCN4069


  1. peter2323 · May 7, 2015

    We can bring about change, 1 Square Foot at a Time


  2. peter2323 · May 7, 2015

    Reblogged this on 1 Square Foot at a Time.


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