I want to tell you what I saw today. In short, I saw a man walk.
Well, not just walk: walk upright, without leaning on a walking stick or limping from the pain.
Of course, it wasn’t just any man. It was a friend of mine, a fixture in my barrio, my elderly neighbor Alonzo. For as long as anyone can remember, Alonzo has lived on the same corner and run the same tienda that sells the same little candies, chips, sodas, and about a million other things you’re so glad you can buy just one block away.
The other thing everyone remembers about Alonzo is that for almost a decade his ability to walk had gradually deteriorated, year after year of standing behind the counter eventually wearing his right knee down to the point that he could barely stand.
But today, as I sat at my desk, I glanced up to see something that made my heart swell. I watched my friend, our neighbor, walk right through the Amigos office door without limping, smiling instead of wincing from the pain, stopping to say hello to everyone as he easily navigated the sprawl of desks and chairs.
The difference, the moment his story (and his stride) changed forever, was a knee replacement surgery he received when an orthopedic surgical brigade came down at the beginning of this year. Taking on a challenge many consider impossible, they have come down two years in a row to implant dozens of state-of-the-art knees and hips into the aching joints of people like Alonzo. People who could never afford a surgery like that selling Ranchitas and Coca, people who were well on their way to losing their mobility and, perhaps as well, their livelihoods.
But now, thanks to the sacrifice and hard work of our friends in that brigade and the companies that sponsor them, Alonzo – and so many others – can walk right down the street and into our office, and you would never guess that not so very long ago that simple task seemed like an impossible dream.
And so I saw a man walk today, and I will never, ever forget it.