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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Scott Schill, RedCliff’s Field Director, shares this story of how strangers worked together to give a little boy a new life: 

Somewhere in a remote town in southern Mexico, tacked into the soft mortar of an ancient brick home, hangs a picture of 18 people that five- year-old Jesus has never met, holding a sign which reads “Feliz Navidad, Jesus”. This is a story of the essence of Christmas.

I have the privilege of working with a very unique and eclectic group of individuals. Each year around Christmas time, we come up with a project that provides assistance to people that could really use the help. For example, one year we gathered school supplies for the small Irrindiria School in Mexico. Another year we raised enough money to purchase a pregnant water buffalo for a village to use for milk, plowing and whatever else one can convince a water buffalo to do that is useful. Another year we donated food and clothing to an orphanage in Africa, after which we received a photo of the children holding a sign reading “Thank You RedCliff Ascent”.

            Earlier this fall, an acquaintance of mine, Carmen, told me of her grandson, Jesus, in Mexico that can’t talk because he can’t hear. She said he’d been tested for hearing and would be able to hear with hearing aids but they would cost around $2,000. She asked if I knew anyone that could help. I told her I would get back to her. I took it to our staff and they gladly agreed to raise the money. The question was, do we send the money to some obscure pueblo in Mexico and hope it was used for that purpose? Or, do we do something different. One of the slogans we use is… “We do not make decisions out of convenience!” So we decided to do it the inconvenient way. The better way.

            I contacted an audiologist from St. George, Utah by the name of Dr. Lance Greer. He works for the Hearing and Balance Center and is also a member of the Rotary Club of Dixie Sunrise. Lance agreed to be adventurous and travel with me to a remote town and southern Mexico and visit Jesus. I told Carmen to let them know we were coming. One of Jesus’ neighbors has a phone. We began our journey when I picked up Lance at about 3:30 a.m. and we travelled together for the next 12 hours where we met Jesus’ father, Marcos, at the Guadalajara airport and picked up our rental car. I received my hands-on Mexican driving instruction from Marcos, who speaks no English. It was terrifying and hilarious at the same time. We spent the next four and a half hours weaving in and out of produce trucks, bicycles, chickens and launching over random speed bumps as we worked our way south into darkness. Lance served as an unflappable copilot as he consulted his gps and took pictures out of the windows while we flew past fascinating scenery, tequila stands and farms. We rolled to a stop in a small town called Los Reyes at almost 8:30 p.m. The family wasn’t home so we went up the block and had some tacos while we waited. I’m pretty sure the gentleman didn’t use Purell before he handled my food but neither Lance nor I cared at this point. It was heaven on 3” tortillas. As we finished eating, a little five-year-old Jesus came bounding up the street out of the dark with his little sister and his nanny. After warm introductions, I bought a round of tacos for them too.

            Later we unpacked our luggage and went inside Jesus’ house. It was extremely humbling. The street is more of a glorified alley. The old brick fronts are randomly dotted with doors. There is a narrow sidewalk that separates the house from the street. I shuddered as I thought that a toddler could literally dart out the front door into traffic without warning.  Especially a hearing impaired toddler. Inside hung a 60 watt light bulb with an extension cord running to the wall and down as the only power supply in the home. The floor was concrete. The walls were brick that had been painted once upon a time but the paint was weathered off, indicating that these structures were many years old and had spent some of that time with the roof off, exposed to the elements. The old metal roof was the only thing between us and the stars. The home had an odor that was neither offensive nor pleasant. Wooden crates hung on the wall to provide kitchen cupboards with mismatched plates and cups and, I noticed only from the photos later, very little food. In fact there was no refrigerator and the only visible food was a plastic bag of dried beans, a container of some leftover substance and a bottle of salsa. That was it. The only room was furnished with two small tables, two chairs, two double beds and a set of shelves for a few items of clothing. Jesus shared a bed with his sisters, one older and one younger. An opening in the back wall revealed an area that appeared to be covered by a tarp and I could see a propane stove there. Nothing else was visible. I have to assume there was plumbing back there too.

            Using the extension cord, Lance set up his equipment and we began testing Jesus. First we had to teach him that, when he heard a sound in his headset, he should raise his hand. Once Lance had enough information to determine roughly the extent of his hearing loss, he began to make molds for his hearing aids and program the aids. Jesus was an eager little patient as the Doctor worked away. I served as a struggling translator as Lance gave instructions for cleaning and caring for the aids. But in the end, they understood everything. Lance did all the work. I just teased the kids mercilessly. They were very warm and trusting of complete strangers and laughed and giggled the entire time. They loved seeing themselves in our digital cameras. The parents and nanny watched and listened and were gracious beyond words. I have a precious video clip, in which, I asked Jesus if he could hear. He raised both hands and nodded smiling and we all cheered. Then he leaned over and hugged Lance. They all hugged us as we left the house at 11:30 to find a hotel room with a frosted glass bathroom door and things crawling on the sink.

            I spent three hours of my life with Jesus and his family that will leave an impression on me for a lifetime. Almost nothing had to be spoken between Lance and myself as we soaked in the experience. Clearly, this family couldn’t have come up with the money for the hearing aids without scrimping for years. In fact, they told us that they had tried to save money for the hearing aids but they were robbed.

            Before I left for Mexico, Jesus’ grandmother said, with tears in her eyes, “It’s a miracle. You are angels and this is a miracle.” So I would like to recognize the Christmas angels by giving a special thanks to Dr. Lance Greer for his adventurous spirit and the generous gift of his time, talents and resources. Thanks to the Rotary Club of Dixie Sunrise for covering some of the equipment expense. And a warm thanks to the owners and staff at RedCliff Ascent for providing the travel expenses to get Jesus his hearing aids.