I spent my last spring break in Honduras, building houses and pouring concrete and playing with kids and loving as many people as possible. I plan to write a couple of posts about my experiences here and there, both on this blog and possibly on my personal blog. This first post is about an incident most people have either seen or heard about to some degree, but I thought I’d share the whole story here.
I knew something was wrong before the pain had a chance to fully set in.
Our team had spent the afternoon at the beach, a break from a week of working in a poor neighborhood in Choluteca. I’d been sitting in a hammock after sunset, chatting with a friend about life, when my pastor called out that we needed to head back to the bus. The sun had set, but we still had enough light to trek back to the bridge leading to the parking lot.
The footbridge was a poorly constructed piece of work involving a handful of concrete piers supporting a walkway of three wooden boards. I laughed as I trudged across, joking that successfully crossing this bridge was my biggest accomplishment of the week. That was before my foot slipped into a rut between the boards and the sidewalk. I tumbled onto the concrete, twisting my ankle on the way down.
I could tell almost immediately that something was wrong. I’ve sent my ankle in weird directions before, but this pain was different. I knew it wasn’t something I could walk off. In fact, my friend had to carry me halfway back to the bus so I could hop into the front seat and stretch my leg out. Then I started feeling the real pain. I can’t recall exactly what it was like, but I remember the pressure in my foot started rising until I thought it might metaphorically burst.
A member of my team walked to the front of the bus, and for the next 45 minutes, she held my leg up and kept it on ice, giving me medication and putting up with me while I yelled and punched the bus seats because I couldn’t deal with the pain. Then she sat and listened to me tell my life story as a way to distract myself.
Even through the pain, I could tell that I was well cared for.
After spending the night tossing and turning in a bed at my host family’s house, I woke in the morning and quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to work. I couldn’t even walk. I made it to the couch, where I cried when I confirmed that I wouldn’t be spending my last day at the work site. My host family reassured me they would take care of me. And they did. I spent the day between my bed and the couch, being fed and checked on and well loved.
And when we went to church in the evening, and my team helped me hobble from the sanctuary to the meeting room and back to the bus, holding me while I cried and carrying me when I didn’t have the strength to hop to my next destination. On Sunday, they wheeled me through three airports, two stops to eat and a trip through customs.
For two days, I was completely dependent on other people. In the following days, after getting the injury diagnosed as a sprain and stumbling around in a walking boot, I’ve asked for more help than I’ve had to seek in a long time. While I’d rather have full use of my leg back, it’s been one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
Two of my big life struggles are that I have trouble receiving love from other people and that I don’t like asking for help. For the last week, I’ve had to completely abandon both of those. My housemate did my laundry because making it down a flight of stairs took too much effort. People walk slower for me and ask me how I’m doing. I’ve had to say I can’t, and I’ve had to let others help me. I’ve had to learn that it’s OK to let people care about me. This past week has been tough, but I have felt cared for every metaphorical step of the way (though literal steps would also be appropriate in this case).
When I left for my trip, I thought I would go to Honduras and learn about serving other people and understanding a different culture and being a better person. But while I did learn all those things, for the last several days, I’ve mostly been learning how to be loved.