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Tuesday Normal Morning


Editor’s Note: Missioner Allison Dethlefs shares a poem that she wrote after an emotional visit with a patient at one of her ministry sites in Bolivia.

With one of my ministries, Fundación San Lucas, I often have the challenging and formational experience of going on home visits to check in on various children or families with whom the rural health foundation works.


A little girl from the community Lomas de Santa Barbara shows off her puppy

Recently on one such visit, I accompanied a doctor and a social worker to see an 11-year-old girl with Down Syndrome. Shaken and weighed down by this experience, I wrote a poem about it as we drove home that morning. I would like to share it with you:

Tuesday Normal Morning

Buy me a doll, she said.

Gringitos—where are the others? said she

Little girl, maybe five, hair full of


Girl of five, one of five

Mother nowhere to be seen

Oldest brother standing by

Doesn’t know the girl’s

Birth date

Everywhere is dust and rock and

So many bottle caps

Second son snatches a sheet from my hand

Wants to color

Won’t give it back

I contemplate chasing him down

Round unfinished brick walls

But an army of cacti glares me into patience

The patient:

Eleven years old

Birth date: unknown

Age of mind (as read by

the Denver Developmental Screening Test):

Less than four

Sandra is her name, yet if you asked

No words would lurk behind

That toothy smile

Though the moods and whims that encompass her body

Speak volumes

Volume one:

She flings herself into your arms

Volume two:

She hides

These tomes her siblings know by heart

(Though not a one visits the classroom

on these Tuesday normal mornings)

On certain subjects they are most


They know she can’t draw

A person of 5 parts or more

That she can use a cup and spoon

But doesn’t dress herself

I know

She can’t stand on one foot for

10 seconds

But can jump on one foot for

5 of them

Five of them

Standing there

Two feet planted

Where no plants thrive

Soil too dry

On this all but abandoned


Their coloring book world

Seven-tenths brown

One-tenth brick red

Two-tenths other

So very other to me as I am


By Justin Bieber’s noxious tunes

Drifiting in with the dust

Source: unknown

And their kitchen is the size of a

Porta potty

And in this little girl’s eyes

I am just another gringita

Who speaks J. Bieber’s mother tongue

And gives out dolls

To girls with


When I walk away

Five will remain

Mother nowhere to be seen

And it’s just their Tuesday

Normal morning

Allison has been serving in Cochabamba, Bolivia since January 2016.

Allison has a wide range of interests and loves including art, dance, long-distance running, baking, literature, and languages. She graduated from Creighton University in Omaha, NE, where she studied Spanish, studio art, and justice and peace studies. After serving and studying in Honduras, Peru, and the Dominican Republic during her university years, she chose to to dive into the new experience of long-term mission abroad.