Lonely in Mexico: How I Became a Counselor

Here I was, 20 years old, volunteering in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico at an orphanage and medical clinic. It was two in the morning and I was waiting for bread to rise with a group of Mexican women. We had just gotten a large donation of flour so the logical decision was to stay up all night baking bread so that nothing was wasted.

I just arrived a few weeks ago and I was feeling lost and lonely. I had come here on faith. I knew little of the language or the culture, and wasn’t even sure how I could help out. But I did know that before I graduated with my BA I needed some real-world experience. When I arrived I found 40 children, 4 women, a handful of medical staff, and a small cement facility. No one in the orphanage spoke English, and no one understood why I left my family to come to Mexico. Baywatch and novelas (Mexican soap operas) played 24/7 in the background except on Sundays, when everyone went to church.

So in the middle of the night as the bread was rising, Pamela Anderson was running across the TV screen and the women were all sharing an inside joke, I found myself desperately trying to not burst into tears. I excused myself and walked across the courtyard to the medical clinic. I discovered a Mexican woman in her late twenties, recovering from a complete hysterectomy, wide awake and all alone. I didn’t catch her name and I couldn’t understand her explanation of why she needed the surgery, but I did understand that until tonight she had always slept at home with her family. She too was lonely and close to tears.

As I sat down beside her she began to share with me about her large, loving family, her desperate grief at no longer being able to bear children, and her loving husband who chose to stay with her “anyway.” In that moment, with the sad smile of a proud Mexican woman and the smell of freshly-baked bread wafting through the window, I became a counselor.