Audiobooks for Oscar
28 March 2012
I would like to share a story about an encounter that stirred much thought in me, and invite you to not only read but also participate in it. The story is about Oscar, a blind man who I met at a Catholic home for the disabled in Guatemala. Please read the story below and consider sending me a recorded message of encouragement or an audiobook on CD (or MP3 CD) that I will send to Oscar.
How I met Oscar
“Tell me,” the blind man said in English, “what do you usually eat?”
I was in the men’s ward of Santo Hermano Pedro, a catholic charity in Antigua, Guatemala. I had just finished feeding several of the patients whose severe physical and mental handicaps made it impossible for them to complete simple tasks unassisted. None of the other men I had met that afternoon could speak complete sentences in their native Spanish, much less in English. Caught off guard, I answered in Spanish.
“Anoche, comí pollo y aguacate.”
“That’s very good,” he replied, proving I had not imagined his first question. “And when you eat donuts, how many do you eat?”
Not sure where this was going, I smiled nervously. “I eat two or three.”
“Three donuts! Wow, that’s a lot! You know, I can’t eat no donuts. They don’t give me nothing with any flavor. Because I have diabetes. That’s why I lost this leg. There ain’t nothing good to eat around here.”
Discomforted by this statement, I tried to steer the conversation to more positive ground. “Well it is good you are taking care of your health.”
“Oh, my health is terrible. I am miserable every day.” Oscar had no interest in pleasant small talk. Unable to think of a reply, I stood silently for a few beats.
“I’m Oscar,” he finally said.
This is how I met Oscar, who spent the next hour telling me about his life. A Guatemalan by birth, he had traveled up through Mexico and into South Texas as a young man, escaping the civil war that ripped his homeland apart from 1960 to 1996.
“You crossed the border?” I asked in surprise, referring to the US-Mexico boarder.
“Yes, it is easy!” He said. “You just walk across, and if a policeman sees you, you tell him you were visiting family.” He’s heard it’s not so easy anymore, our administration would be glad to know.
Oscar spoke of his time working various jobs in the United States, eventually assembling short form radios for the US Military. “We did- what’s the word? Soldadura?”
I did not know what he was talking about, but well after the conversation had moved on he blurted out, “Solder! That’s what it is called! We soldered the wires for the radios.”
It was painfully evident that this sad, clever man did not belong at Hermano Pedros, where his only social interaction was with happy but childlike fellow patients, an overworked staff, and the occasional Western volunteer who chose the old men over the children down the hall. I chanced upon Oscar only because there were already too many volunteers in the children’s ward that day. But with one leg, no sight, and no relatives, he had nowhere else to go.
“They do not let me have any sharp objects here, because they are afraid I will kill myself,” he told me. “I have tried to kill myself a couple times, but they stop me.”
I had never heard someone talk so lightly yet seriously of suicide. “It would be a real shame if you were to die,” I said after an awkward silence. He disagreed. He told me he was miserable and just wanted to stop suffering.
I thought how differently Oscar’s living situation would be if he were a member of my family. I pictured Oscar in an assisted living home, where a nurse came in just a few times daily to help him dress, bathe, or change. He could eat solid, flavorful food and listen to NPR, then wheel himself to the fireside to complain about the government with fellow old-timers. With proper treatment, it is possible he could even regain his sight. I kept thinking, ‘He shouldn’t be here.’
At one point, in true Oscar fashion, he asked me if I liked to read.
“Yes, I read just about anything,” I replied.
“I used to love to read,” Oscar said with nostalgia. “I loved travel books- stories about Egypt or Asia or far away places. When I listen to the TV now, I can never fully understand what is going on.”
This conversation inspired Audiobooks for Oscar. I plan to buy a hand-held CD player, some spare batteries, and a few audiobooks on CD for Oscar, in both English and Spanish. With these stories, I hope Oscar can better enjoy his time at Hermano Pedro. In addition, I plan to record a message for Oscar, letting him know his story touched me, I care about him, and he still has much to offer this world. I invite you to join me. If you have any audio books on CD (in English or Spanish) lying around, or want to buy your favorite foreign-set audio book for Oscar, I would love to forward them to Hermano Pedro on your behalf. Also, if you want to record a message for Oscar, whether to encourage him or to simply say hi and explain why you selected a particular book for him, you can either leave your message as a voicemail or email the audio file to me, and I’ll transfer it to a CD for Oscar. Since Hermano Pedro is a Catholic charity, please choose books that his caretakers will consider appropriate.
I hope Oscar’s story touched you or provoked some thought. Thank you for sharing your favorite stories and messages of hope with him. I have no doubt he will appreciate it. FYI: He told me that he loves hearing the voice of a Western woman, just before I called my friend Megan over to talk with him.
Messages of Encouragement for Oscar can be left as a voicemail at the phone number (910) 236-9617, or recorded as an audio file and emailed to email@example.com
Audiobooks on CD or MP3 CD (in Spanish or English) for Oscar can be shipped/delivered to:
1501 Collegeview Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27606
Or, email me to arrange a hand-off on NC State’s campus.
Where you might find Audiobooks on CD:
Check local yard sales or your own attic. Look around online as well (ebay can be a cheap option). If you know of a good place to find them, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share it here. Because audiobooks in Spanish are harder to find, those are doubly appreciated.