“I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.” ~Tracy Chapman
I have walked up and down the long hallway of the hospital perhaps more than a hundred times each day this week. This is the hallway where all of our families wait before, during, and after surgery of their child. Some families appear anxious, others more stoic, but the families look at each and every Austin Smiles team member with trust, respect, and gratitude. They are as thankful to me as they are to the talented surgeons who operate on their child. While everyone on this Mission Team is contributes, I want to highlight a few “ordinary people” who may be angels in disguise.
For Teri and Del Waters no opportunity to help is too big or too small. Longtime supporters of Austin Smiles, they are on their second mission trip and are as enthusiastic as if it is their second honeymoon! As non-medical volunteers, they play the role of gracious hosts – taking care of daily grocery shopping, stocking the breakroom, and even “catering” lunch to meet a sudden craving for papusas. But just as often they are playing balloon catch with a little boy waiting for surgery, transfering a patient from recovery to post-op, or helping a grandmother off the elevator. They are the kind who don’t wait to be asked to help, but have the innate knowledge of what will make the job easier for others and just step right in. And even more than what they do, it is the warmth, enthusiasm and energy they bring to each task that lifts those around them.
“It is incredible what everyone is doing – something amazing!” Marco Borgo tells me as we watch his daughter play before her surgery on Wednesday morning. Our team could say the same about Marco’s impact on the work of the Austin Smiles Team this year. Marco lives with his wife, Daniela and daughter Lya, in San Salvador and works for a local bakery. During Austin Smiles trips, he is at the hospital each day volunteering as a translator – a translator who shows up each morning with sweet “postres” for our team.
This year, Marco is also a parent who’s child is being helped by Austin Smiles. Lya is having pharyngeal flap surgery to improve her speech. Even as he waits with Lya and other families in his role as a parent in the hallway, Marco is pulled into action to assist Dr. Tom Sentz, who is extracting a couple of 8 year old Maria Isabel’s teeth and creating an obturator for her. As Maria Isabel becomes anxious and begins to cry and resist, Marco instinctively helps Dr. Sentz hold her arms still and tries to reassure her – his own eyes brimming with tears as he anticipates his own daughter’s surgery in less than an hour.
The Austin Smiles team is comprised of more than forty “Purposeful People” like these. Laura Guerrero, a veteran of several Austin Smiles El Salvador trips says she is always impressed by “How the team is a team…. Hardly anyone knows each other, but we come together because we all speak the same language – universal compassion and empathy on a human level. And the families feel it.”