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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A to Z April Blogging Challenge


I have to admit it.  I am a big fan of Lee at Tossing It Out  I greatly enjoy his posts and admire his leadership as a blogger.  Lee and other wonderful blogging buddies have an interesting and fun project: the A to Z April Challenge , which I finally decided to join. 

How does the Challenge work?

The premise of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge is to post something on your blog every day in April except for Sundays.  In doing this you will have 26 blog posts--one for each letter of the alphabet.   Each day you will theme your post according to a letter of the alphabet.

You will only be limited by your own imagination in this challenge.  There is an unlimited universe of possibilities.  You can post essays, short pieces of fiction, poetry, recipes, travel sketches, or anything else you would like to write about.  You don't have to be a writer to do this.  You can post photos, including samples of your own art or craftwork.    Everyone who blogs can post from A to Z.

My Challenge 

My challenge is to post a 50-word story every day.  For the most, they will be nursing-home inspired stories.   

I hope you enjoy them. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Language of Compassion

“I am afraid we can’t meet his needs...”  I lamented.  I clutched the receiver to my ear, wishing that the hospital social worker on the other side of the line could sense my frustration, flowing through the telephone line like a river of regret.

“You can try an interpreter,”  the social worker insisted.

“He is too weak.  He won’t be able to communicate with an interpreter.”  I sighed as thoughts raced in my mind, struggling with the decision of whether to take Mr. Alexander under our care.  

Communication was the challenge, as Mr. Alexander was deaf and illiterate. 

Hospitalized for several weeks, Mr. Alexander had suffered a significant decline in his medical condition.  His prognosis was very poor.  In the hospital, he had made clear to the doctors and medical staff that he did not want aggressive treatment or intervention to prolong his life.  He had previously made his wishes known through an interpreter.

He had become very frail. The hospital couldn’t do much for him in his condition. He had no family or friends.  He needed the expertise of a long-term care facility.

After asking the social worker to give us some time to discuss the case, I sank into my chair, placed my elbows on my desk and rested my face in my hands.  My mind was in a whirl of thoughts about Mr. Alexander and his unfortunate situation. 

A strange feeling, an impromptu decision, rushed me out of my office. 

I need to go to the hospital!

I walked into the hospital.  Uncertainty flooded my mind, yet I knew I had to see Mr. Alexander.  I walked the long, polished floor of the hallway until I spotted his room.  I knocked at the door, as is customary. 

A slender man in his late seventies was laying in a bed.  He looked worn out, his gazed fixed on the ceiling—like if his mind was away, far away from that place.  I stood by his bed.  I tilted my head, to his eye level.  He looked up, staring at me.  Behind those round hazel eyes I perceived a mix of sad and endearing feelings. 

I smiled at him.  He smiled back, for one brief moment.

I touched his hand.  A feeling of compassion enveloped me.  I held his hand in both of mine.  His frail fingers attempted to grasp hands, but he was so debilitated that his hand dropped almost motionless on the bed.  He glanced at me again, then he shut his eyes, and went to sleep. 
Neither words nor an interpreter were needed to communicate between us.  I knew what he wanted—and needed.  He wanted caring hands to help him in his last journeyin this world. 

Now my decision to help him was resolute.

Mr. Alexander arrived to our facility that same day, late in the afternoon.  I went to his room before I left for the day.  I glanced at him.  He was sleeping.  I was relieved that he appeared peaceful. And I felt peaceful as well—or so I thought. 

That night, I woke a few times, thinking of Mr. Alexander.  I don’t normally experience work induced restless nights.  I try to disengage from work when I get home.  
But that night—that particular night—seemed out of the ordinary. 
I tried to relax with the thought that Mr. Alexander was being well-taken care of.  I finally went to sleep for a few hours.

The next morning I got up earlier than usual, and by seven o’clock I was already walking the halls in the nursing home.  I approached Mr. Alexander’s nurse and asked her about him.

“He’s still with us!”  She exclaimed.  “I just left his room.”

I headed to Mr. Alexander’s room.  His appearance startled me as he looked worse than he had the last time I saw him.  I held his hand.  It was warm.  I fixed my eyes on him.  After a few minutes, I saw no signs of breathing. I drew closer. He was still.  I called the nurses. Two nurses came in and examined him. 

He had just passed on.

“Strange...” his nurse said. “It’s almost like if he was waiting for you...”

“Yeah...” I spoke softly—struggling to find words as tears welled in my eyes. 

Mr. Alexander had died in his sleep.  In a peaceful dream, I hoped.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Rose Garden

A personal event inspired me to write "The Rose Garden" story.  

Short Story Book has published it online.   I'm being featured as a Guest Writer. 

                                                CLICK HERE

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Biblioghetto Project

                                                         Photo: www.facebook.com/Biblioghetto

Nook, Nookcolor, Kindle, iPad, MP3, iPod, ...“I think I want to upgrade from my iPod,”  Claire expressed. “I want an iPod touch!”

It wasn’t an easy decision for Claire.  My teenage daughter debated which of the electronic upgrades would best suit her dream birthday gift. 

Claire and I spent a great deal of time looking, touching, and testing e-readers, tablets, and music players.  The gadgets were fascinating, I have to admit.  

That weekend, I had observed Claire intently playing with her iPod and Smart phone, as I surfed the internet, caught up reviewing blog posts, replied to emails, and read the news on my laptop.  I read the national and international news, including online news from my hometown—Cali, Colombia.

As I read El Pais, the most popular newspaper in Cali, one particular article caught my attention.  

Biblioghetto, Literature in the middle of poverty in barrio Petecuy.

It was the story of a young writer who decided to devote his time and heart to teach reading and writing  to children and youngsters in an impoverished neighborhood—or barrio—in Cali.  It was the brainchild of Gustavo Andrés Gutiérrez, a 25-year old native of the same neighborhood.  

Gustavo passionately read books since an early age.  He was so fascinated with reading, that he easily devoured four books a week.  Later, he ventured into writing himself and became a novelist. 

The article related how Gustavo, after a river flooded the neighborhood, asked himself:  “What’s my social responsibility as a writer? ‘To introduce children to literature,’ I answered to myself.  And that’s what I’ve done.” 

Petecuy, along with other neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, have gained a reputation of barrios with high rates of illiteracy among children and youngsters, along with their more dark reputation of rampant crime, drug problems and gang-related violence. 

“The only way to keep away from violence in the neighborhood is to feel passion for something.  Books have been my passion, since I was a kid,”  Gustavo said.  And his dream of drawing children and books closer together was possible when his concept of Biblioguetto emerged. 

Biblioghetto is a mobile library project.  Every weekend, Gustavo and a group of friends dedicated to his vision, sit at the park, street corners and by the river dam, to delight children and teenagers with readings from books and drawing pictures. 

The project also includes workshops in reading and writing, story-telling, theater, drafting community newsletters, and organizing art festivals. 

Some of the young participants declared that Biblioghetto helped take them away from illegal drugs and gang activities.  And more amazingly, it has been reported that rival gangs have met at the barrio festivals without any confrontation or violence, and interacted in a friendly manner. 

As I finished reading the article, my heart pounded.  I fell into reflection.  I thought about the visit to the electronics store and the multiple choices Claire had before her.  Then my thoughts switched to the children and youngsters in Petecuy, and many other parts of the third world that don’t have access to the most basic form of mass communication: the written word

Anxious to express my admiration for his impressive project, I contacted Gustavo.  He kindly replied to me, giving me consent to post the story about Biblioghetto, and to make his information available to anyone who may want to contact him.  His campaign is for a donation of notepads, books, pens and pencils.

In an era where electronic communication is the norm, a voice asking for the basics of pen and paper to open the world for illiterate children and teenagers becomes a call awakening me. 

Gustavo concluded:  “We want to promote our project and find national and international support. Thanks for your encouragement.” 

Gustavo Gutiérrez
Biblioghetto Director

The reporter of the story ended the article with the most mesmerizing thought:

“Gustavo doesn’t know, but he has an unsuspected power.  He changes people’s looks in Petecuy.  He, the writer, who uses literature on the streets and parks, has de-activated people’s rage.” 

Photo:José Luis Guzmán / El Pais

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Social Work Month- March 2011

March is Social Work Month. The National Association of Social Workers, Missouri chapter is posting a story daily. My 50-word story is being featured today.

                                    CLICK HERE