Don Francisco lives upstairs. Someone carried him up. Francisco cannot walk. Francisco cannot see. Francisco is 89 years old.
La Casa Esperanza is the homeless shelter which is run by the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. It is not an overnight shelter, but a place where many men, some women and young children come for a hot meal, access to bathing and laundry sinks, comfort, pastoral care, medicine, and work. There is a before and after school program for young children to help them with reading and basic skills. The woodworking shop is a place where men and women can learn, can work and do create lovely crosses and other artesenias which are sold to help support the shelter. Many of the clients are alcoholics, drug addicts and people who are living with AIDS. When the doors close for the evening, sleeping places are found in the doorways of nearby banks.
Don Francisco has no one to take care of him. He, and a few others, have been given permanent shelter by the mama of the house, Trinidad. Trini has a heart of rescue.
We remembered don Francisco from a year ago. He was disoriented and his room was bathed in urine. He is challenged by incontinence and the resources to care for him are few. As we four women climbed the stairs, we prepared ourselves to be sad. The light in the simple room was turned on for us. Francisco sat on his simple bed, surrounded by four bright orange walls and nothing more than a simple hand-made cross hanging over his bed. The walls were bright and so was don Francisco. He sat upright in his bed, and we greeted him with strong voices. I put my hand on his shoulder so that he knew that we were close. He talked a little bit about his health with our doctoras.
The Spirit moved us to sing. We sang out "Alabare" and after a few moments don Francisco was singing right along with us. His voice was strong and loud and soon he was harmonizing. His face shone like the sun with a grand smile and tears dripped from don Francisco's eyes. After a round of applause for the song, don Francisco told us that he was a musician. He had played guitar and sang and he wanted to sing for us. He sang a beautiful song of faith, one which had a bit of spirit to it so that in between the stanzas he was moved to provide the "bum, bum, bum, bum" rhythm. He shared a love song. We shared a round in English.
We left behind some things to help make don Francisco a little more healthy and a little more comfortable. We took away the gift of joyful hearts and the image of a man living in a little room, on a little bed with a lot of faith and music in his heart.
When access is available, I will be adding a video of don Francisco singing for us...