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Starting Point

Martincito’s trust in God


I was sitting outside the old Indian hut drinking my coffee and enjoying the morning sounds of the river as the jungle came to life. I soon became aware of a presence though I didn’t hear anything. As I turned, there stood Martincito.

About 70 years old, he was dressed in a threadbare tee shirt, patched blue work pants and worn-out sandals. His feet were planted together, hands held one on top of the other in front of his abdomen and his little frame was bent slightly forward at the shoulders with his head inclined down. Shyly, he looked up with his eyes and gave me his usual sweet smile. He didn’t want to disturb me in my quiet moment but was here for his treatment. Slowly and quietly he went about his daily work of caring for the house and grounds of my friends, Wayne and Kelvia. He moved among the dense plants and trees as an integral part of the teeming life in that valley. He had a respect for every living thing and would not even crush an insect or spider. He would gently move it to another area if it were bothering someone (that would be me!)

After his treatment he asked if I could possibly treat his wife. She was in a lot of pain, and I would have to go to his house to see her. I agreed and Kelvia showed me the way the next morning. We drove along a narrow dirt road under a lush tropical canopy of trees, until my friend directed me to stop in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. I carried my portable chiropractic table and doctor’s bag up a steep and narrow path. Hidden from the road, we arrived at a small two-room hut set in the side of the hill. There was no electricity, so it was difficult to see the inside the house. I could see that there was a bed in one room but not much more. The kitchen had an open wood fire for cooking, and the walls were blackened from years of smoke trying to find the way out of the tiny enclosure.

There were two chairs and a table to furnish the room, nothing more. Martincito greeted us with a big smile and a delicate handshake. His wife remained seated on a very small and lopsided cement seat attached to the outside wall. She was very tiny and frail. This little perch was her whole connection to the world outside her home. When Martincito left for work in the morning, he would help her to her little bench and there she would sit until he returned. There was the smallest opening in the trees and lush vegetation that would allow her to see if anyone passed along the road below. As our visit came to an end and we all said our goodbyes, Martincito helped me carry my table back down the side of the hill to my car. After many blessings and thanks from Martincito, we were on our way.

Many years ago, Martincito had worked for Edward James, an eccentric British millionaire, who bought 100 acres of jungle in central Mexico, which is now called Las Posas, just outside of Xilitla. There, he hired laborers who worked for 25 years constructing immense concrete structures of abstract art that he designed in a surreal sculpture garden. Martincito was James’ favorite worker and worked for him until the time of James’ death. When the new owners inherited the land, they let Martincito go the next day. He received no compensation, no bonus, no retirement, and his living standards never changed in all those years even though he was “the favorite” of a millionaire. Soon after, other employees that had worked for James for many years were let go with no compensation and no retirement. They were angry and demanded justice. They hired an attorney to get the money they believed they deserved. They won their suit and were compensated monetarily to their satisfaction.

Friends asked Martincito why he didn’t seek compensation along with the others, since he had worked more years than all the others and surely deserved it. Martincito replied, “If this man does not give me compensation from his heart, I don’t want it, and perhaps he needs it more than me. Every day of my life God has provided for me. I have never gone a day without food or a roof over my head. What more do I need?”

He was perfectly happy in his house on the hill. He had food, water and shelter, clean air to breath and his wife. She was very sickly and always had been. When Martincito met her many years ago she was a widow 15 years his senior with two small children and many health problems. People said, “Martincito, why do you want to marry her? She will always be sick and you will have to take care of her.” He replied, “She is a gift to me from God, and I think she will need someone to care for her in her old age. I will do it gladly.”

The modern world is so full of distractions. We want a bigger house, another car, a vacation home, more clothes and a promotion at work. Through all our wanting there seems to be a yearning for something more simple, more honest. We want to feel a peacefulness that comes with being truly satisfied. Martincito is rooted in his dependence on God, not on the benevolence or mercy of others. Such confidence and trust is a powerful witness of faith.

Jeri Moat and her husband, Jim, served as missioners in Mexico for three-and-a-half years. They now live in Austin, Texas.

National Catholic Reporter, March 22, 2002