INDIA JOURNAL -- 2002 (Part 3)

I never really expected a St. Patrick’s Day card would ever be given to me in Bombay, India.  But upon awakening at the Tulip Hotel Sunday morning, Anna Marie presented me with a card she had brought along for her Irishman.

Upon good advice, we were headed south to escape the riots and bloodshed in Gujarat. By 6:00 a.m. we had checked out of our hotel and were in a small taxi headed for the Bombay airport to fly to the large interior city of Hyderabad.  After a couple of days in Hyderabad we would fly on to the Bhubaneswar - Cuttack area and then on to Orrisa on the east coast of India. 

After checking in I picked up an India Times newspaper and to my amazement read of how over 300 rioters had stormed the legislative facilities in Orissa.  We were flying from Hyderabad into Orissa thinking that we were staying out of harm’s way that was in Gujarat on the west side of India.  We would see if we could now play hopscotch successfully around the violence in the east. 

Upon landing in Bhubaneswar, Anna Marie and I were met by Dr. Ranjan Singh, and taken to the Blue Lagoon Hotel to check in.  We were in the heart of rural, eastern India.  We would be spending Sunday and Monday primarily in Cuttack, an area, along with Bhubaneswar of about 2.8 million people.

Dr. Singh was eager to have us visit his hospital.  Following graduation from medical school he had gone to Calcutta to specialize in surgery.  When he returned to Cuttack he worked at the government hospital and medical school, but at the same time opened his own small clinic and lab on one of the side streets of Cuttack. Over the years he had built his “Seba” hospital into an impressive facility, but he desperately needed Project C.U.R.E. to help him out with medical supplies and equipment pieces. I admired what Dr. Singh had accomplished. 

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Dr. Singh was also an active Rotarian.  Before we left we were able to get all the papers signed that would help secure some matching grant money from International Rotary to help cover the costs of shipping the container of Project C.U.R.E.’s donations in the future.

Monday, March 18
 
Orissa state had experienced a devastating weather phenomenon.  A storm developed over the Bay of Bengal that weathermen referred to as a “super cyclone.” As the storm moved onto the coastline it brought incredible winds, but more devastating was the water that accompanied the storm.  The sea was actually pushed up onto the shore and then inland for miles.  When the cyclone abated, all the water that had flooded the inland rushed back out to the sea with such force that it carried everything in its path back out to the Bay of Bengal.  Tens of thousands of people were swept out to the sea and drowned.  There had never really been any accurate accounting of how many lives were lost.

Entire villages were washed away.  The village of Bagadia, located a full four miles inland, was left under eight feet of water once the water had swept back out to the sea.  As we viewed the devastation we were urged to join Operation Mobilization to help bring needed relief to Bagadia.

We drove back along the Bay of Bengal then turned directly west for another nearly four-hour drive to Cuttack.  While driving I once again observed the driving habits of the people in India.  Perhaps of the nearly 100 countries in which I have traveled, no other drivers were as dangerous as those in India.  I thought to myself, “In America we drive defensively . . . in India they drive defiantly.”  I still think that the way the TATA truck drivers operated their rigs in India reflected the fact that most of them were either from the lowest caste level or of the untouchables beneath the caste floor.  Behind the wheel of the huge trucks they had the ability to finally level the power-tilted social playing field, and if their recklessness resulted in their death they could only return as something better.  That was just an unofficial opinion on my observations.  But they frightened the puddin’ out of me.

Tuesday, March 19
 
A crazy thing had happened in the riot riddled area of Ayodhya on the west coast of India.  The Supreme Court of India had taken the whole Hindu temple issue under consideration.  That had an effect on the people to slow down their violence and wait for the Court’s decision.  Neither side would abide by the decision when it came down, but it temporarily defused the explosive face-off.  The other interesting thing accomplished by the government as a conciliatory measure was to allow the shiladaan stone of the Hindus to be delivered and presented on an adjacent site in Ayodhya rather than the actual temple site.  That allowed the Muslims to claim that they had kept the Hindus from declaring the construction had officially begun on the old site of their mosque, and at the same time, allowed the Hindu holy people to claim that the sacred stone had been officially delivered.

Somehow the pleas of the officials for peace and calm had temporarily postponed the radical bloodshed.  Be that as it may, it had allowed us an opening to travel through the “hot spots” during the small opening of the window of opportunity.  We would go ahead with our plans to return to Bombay and push for the trip into Gujarat.

We checked out of the Blue Lagoon Hotel in Cuttack and were taken back to the airport in Bhubaneswar where we caught an India Air flight back to Bombay and made our way to the Bawa Hotel not far from the airport. That night we purchased our tickets for our ride on March 20 from Bombay to Surat.  We needed to check our e-mail messages, but the hotel computers were all down. We walked the streets of Bombay that night until we found a cyber storefront where we could connect to the Internet. 
 
It was nearly 10 p.m. by the time we walked back to the Bawa Hotel.  Bombay is not a pretty or desirable sight that time of the night.  Leprosy victims and scores of little children, some toting babies on their hip, mobbed us as we quickly walked down the dark streets.  Off in the shadows I spotted the “beggar masters” who organized the beggars and directed their actions.  They are like pimps are for prostitutes.  The beggar masters not only encouraged and controlled their herd of street beggars, but would force them to take only a certain percentage of the money while they kept the rest.  Begging was a huge business in India.

Wednesday, March 20
 
Over 700 people had been killed during the civil unrest, including the people torched in the train incident.  But, God had protected us and we had been able to sidestep the mêlée.  But the most precarious part of our trip was yet ahead of us.  Wednesday our travels would be within the state of Gujarat where the majority of the killings and conflicts had taken place.  We felt that we would be safe if we flew from Bombay to Bhuj.  If we were to go by train we would have to go through Ahmadabad and the other cities where the majority of the killings had taken place.  Curfews had been placed on almost all those towns, so flying was really the only option.

Next Week: A second attempt into the riot area


INDIA JOURNAL --2002 (Part 2)

History-making cyclones had struck the eastern part of India in the region of Orissa, leaving over 10,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.In January 2001, massive earthquakes had also hit India’s western region of Gujarat.  The quake registered an unbelievable 7.7 on the Richter scale and left over 30,000 people dead, over 165,000 injured, and almost one million people without homes or economic support.

When the earthquakes and the super cyclones hit India, Project C.U.R.E. became immediately involved.  I had never viewed Project C.U.R.E. as a “disaster relief” organization because I had always felt that we could be of more value coming alongside an organization or institution and helping them on a long-term basis than we could by chasing disasters.

However, we were approached to help out in both the western Gujarat area as well as the eastern Orissa area. From our Project C.U.R.E. warehouse in Rochester, England, Project C.U.R.E. UK had sent emergency medical goods to the earthquake victims, and from our warehouse in Phoenix, Arizona, Project C.U.R.E. had sent goods to Orissa.  But the real need would still prove to be in the long-term reconstruction of destroyed medical facilities in both venues.  Requests for help began pouring into our Denver headquarters and the pressure was on us to get to the locations and perform the needs assessment studies so that we could begin to ship the much-needed containers of donated medical supplies and pieces of equipment into the crippled areas.

Additionally, we had been getting pressure to perform a needs assessment trip into Kathmandu, Nepal.  Some wonderful people in Denver had earlier become involved in spearheading donations of cash and goods to the Patan Hospital in the old Patan section of Kathmandu City. I decided to see if we could combine both assessment assignments into one trip. 

Tuesday, March 12
In India’s grievous history, there supposedly stood a Hindu temple on holy ground near a place called Ayodhya not far from the major western city of Ahmadabad in the state of Gujarat.  Previous conflicts between the militant Muslims and the radical Hindu sects had resulted in the Muslims desecrating the holy site by destroying the Hindu shrine and building in its place, on the very spot, a Muslim mosque.

In 1992 the Hindu radicals attacked the mosque and tore it down piece by piece and burned it.  Riots broke out across India where thousands of people were either killed or injured, and surrounding properties were burned or looted.  The Hindus made declaration that they would rebuild their temple and reconsecrate the holy ground.  They had declared that on March 15, 2002, they would march to the holy site with a sacred stone called a “shiladaan,” which would commemorate the official beginning of the temple construction.  Earlier, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Hindu temple should not be rebuilt and the government purchased the surrounding property in order to block the building.  But none of that was going to stop the Hindus from reclaiming the lost honor of their gods, who had suffered for such a long time under the Muslims.

Hindu pilgrims began taking the public trains to Ayodhya to support the move to rebuild the Hindu temple. On Wednesday, February 27, the Indian trains were packed with passengers headed to Ahmadabad.  The Sabarmati Express had just pulled into the Godhra station.  Muslims were at the station shouting anti-Hindu slogans.  The train pulled out of the station only a short distance when someone pulled the emergency stop handle.  Immediately, the train was attacked by rock-throwing hoodlums who began smashing out the windows of the railcars.

The frightened passengers in a second-class sleeping car pulled down the shades and locked the coach doors.  Soon burning rags, Molotov cocktails, and bottles of acid landed inside the train car while the attackers doused the outside of the coach with gasoline and kerosene.  Almost immediately sleeper car S-6 and the adjoining coaches were on fire.  There was absolutely no escape for the passengers inside who were burned alive.

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Of the 58 people who burned in S-6, 26 were women and 16 were children.  An additional 50 or more were injured in the burning ambush.  Then rumors quickly spread that in order to teach the Hindu pilgrims a lesson, the Muslims had also kidnapped and raped Hindu women.

Riots broke out all over India.  People were killed and properties were torched in Bombay, Ahmadabad, and Hyderabad, and as far away as New Delhi and Calcutta.  Everyone figured that the violence was only a precursor to what might happen on March 15 when the Hindus marched to Ayodhya with the shiladaan.

For me, it was an interesting situation.  All through the mess I still felt that it was necessary that we go ahead with our plans to travel to India.  I continued to monitor the situation closely on the Internet.  On March 6, we received an e-mail from Havshida Bhatt, the wife of the former Rotary governor in Surat in the state of Gujarat.  Her e-mail stated, “Not advise to do any travel in Gujarat.  The worst riots are going on.  There is a curfew in Surat, Baroda, Ahmadabad, and Rajkot.  Advise him to postpone the trip.”

We prayed for direction and wisdom.  There was still the calm insistence that we should continue on our plan to travel on the dates already arranged.  Once we got to Bombay we could further assess the situation on March 14. Our Lufthansa flight took us to Frankfurt, then on to Bombay, India. We landed about 2:00 a.m.

Wednesday, March 14

I had made reservations to stay at the Centaur Hotel close to Bombay’s domestic airport and had told our people that Anna Marie and I would either catch a shuttle or a taxi to the Centaur Hotel. We would meet up with them in the morning. I had landed in India before in the middle of the night.  I knew what to expect at the airport.  But it was a first for Anna Marie.  Bombay was hot, muggy, and stinky even in the middle of the night.  We were suddenly surrounded by thousands of desperate people.  They were everywhere, pushing, grubbing, begging, and others sleeping wherever they could find a space large enough to lie down.

I was walking ahead of Anna Marie pushing a path through all the bodies as we pulled our wheelie suitcases toward a taxi.  “Oh, honey,” I heard Anna Marie gasp.  “I just ran my suitcase over the feet of a sleeping beggar.  I didn’t see his feet sticking out.  What should I do?” 

“Keep walking, baby,” I shouted back.  “Don’t slow down here.” It was 3:30 a.m. when we got checked into the hotel.

Two Indian gentlemen met us at the Centaur Hotel later Thursday morning. Alphy Franks andGideon Peter had flown to Bombay just to meet us. We discussed at length the situation that was unfolding in India.  The next day, March 15, the Hindus would march to the proposed temple site at Ayodhya.  If violence was sparked, riots would instantly erupt all over India.  The train burning had already heightened the emotions of religious radicals on both sides to a frightening frenzy.

I shared with Alphy and Gideon that our schedule for the Indian trip included going by train from Bombay up to Surat in Gujarat state to meet the Rotary people on March 15 and spend about three days with them viewing projects.  Then, we were to fly from Bombay across the country to the Calcutta area and visit Orissa state to view Dr. Singh’s projects and the cyclone projects from March 18 to 21.  On March 22 we would fly north to Kathmandu, Nepal, for the last needs assessment assignment for the trip.

Alphy and Gideon had traveled to meet us in Bombay to tell us of the acute danger of traveling in Gujarat over the days around March 15 and to urge us to reverse our India travel schedule.  Their suggestion was for us to leave Bombay and fly further south away from the flash point of the trouble to Hyderabad. Then, travel from Hyderabad to Orissa State and meet with Dr. Singh and also view the cyclone projects near Cuttack and Bhubaneswar.  By that time we would all know what was going to happen at Ayodhya and be able to determine whether or not it would be safe enough to return to Gujarat.

I told Alphy and Gideon at the end of our discussion that I believed God had sent to us words of wisdom through them.  I asked them to help us with all the necessary scheduling changes including train tickets, airline tickets, and hotels.  The changes would also make it necessary to contact the Rotary people and Dr. Singh and let them know of our thinking.

Next Week: Trying to stay out of harms way


 

GOOD NEWS--Progress report on new journal books: "Roads I Traveled Delivering Health and Hope"

We announced earlier, Winston-Crown Publishing House, LTD. is in the process of publishing all of Dr. Jackson’s actual field journals and making them available to his readers. It is estimated that it will take twelve separate, oversized books, to accommodate all the exciting stories, adventures, and photos covering the twenty-five-year saga of the unique organization affectionately known as Project C.U.R.E. The stories reveal the heartaches, thrills, disappointments, and personal dangers experienced while trying to build an international humanitarian enterprise that would be capable of delivering health and hope to tens of thousands of needy people around the world. 

The good news is - - as of the end of this week, six of the twelve books will have been published and are ready to go. It has been the determination of the publisher not to make the books available for sale until all the books are presentable in a commemorative package. It has also been agreed that all proceeds from sales will go directly to Project C.U.R.E. and their exceptional projects around the world.

Now, you can see why we are so excited! We are well over halfway to the finish line.

We will keep you updated on the progress. In the meantime, we will be sharing excerpts here on this blog site, taken directly from the pages of Dr. Jackson’s international journals. Enjoy!
 
                                                  INDIA JOURNAL -  2002
                                                                 (Part 1)
                                                     Dr. James W. Jackson

INDIA AND NAPAL JOURNAL: March 12-28, 2002: India had the reputation of being a terribly needy place.  As my previous journals would indicate, I had already traveled extensively throughout India. From Delhi, I had traveled by Jeep north through the Kulu Valley over the treacherous snow-covered Himalayas into the Spiti Valley and Tibet along the China border.  Another trip had taken me to Calcutta, then south and east along the coastline to Visakhapatnam and the “rock breakers” of Rajahmundry.  Yet another trip had taken me to Hyderabad then to the southern sections of India.  And, I could recall that my very first trip had dumped me into Madras from Kuala Lumpur arriving all alone in the midst of lepers, thieves, and beggars at about 2 in the morning.

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Of course, I could never forget another trip, flying into Bombay then to Delhi, and on into Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland, with Drew Dixon.  There, we experienced getting mixed up in a civil uprising and coup where, before it was all over, we found ourselves staring down the barrels of the Assam Indian Army’s automatic weapons, trying to explain what we were doing out in a war zone.

India was a pitifully needy place with a population of over one billion and poverty and squalor wherever you looked.  However, a lot of folks were very wealthy in India.  For example, if you had the money, you could receive healthcare in private hospitals rivaling those in the US.  I had become acquainted with wealthy people in India who lived in plush homes, drove sleek cars, and maintained lifestyles equal to the rich and famous anywhere else on earth.

Some 82% of the Indian citizens were Hindu, 12% were Muslim, and barely over 2% were Christian.  If India could experience a thoroughly equal free market economy and society, there would be wealth galore for everyone.  The natural resources were certainly at the citizens’ disposal if they could only access them.  Hardly any other continent in history could boast of a workforce of a billion people.  But their economy and social structure was so intertwined with their religious beliefs that real wealth and production would get constipated before relief could be experienced.

The whole concept of birth, lust, procreation, and finally, acceptance of death placed the Hindu believer in a damning cycle that was only modified by the idea of incarnation.  Hope would spring only from the possibility of being recycled into something better in the next go-around.  You needed to accept where you were and what you were in the present life and hope things would get better when you came back the next time.  That philosophy gave continuation to the deadly controlling factors of the caste system.  “Placidly accept what you have in the present life and you will be promoted as you pop from the womb into the next recycling bin.”

At the highest level of the caste system you would find the “Brahmans.”  Originally, they were the priests and scholars.  Now, that included even hotel managers, chefs, and other recognized professionals.

Next in line in the system are the “Kshatriyas,” the warriors and rulers, today’s politicians.  The “Vaisyas” category followed, including the merchants, farmers, and traders.  Last in the caste system would be the “Sudras,” the laborers, artisans, servants, and other common workers. 

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Below the lowest caste level would be the people of no caste designation.  They really messed up somewhere along the recycling line but not so bad as to reappear as an animal.  They were referred to as the “Untouchables” or “Harijans.”  Their level of separation seemed to fall along the continuum of pollution vs. purity.  They were relegated to tasks of “pollution” not acceptable to any person within the caste system.  They slaughtered animals, tanned leather, and were the “rock breakers,” some of whom I had met in Rajahmundry.  Physical contact with those people would defile anyone in the caste levels.  In recent years legislation had tried to outlaw the discrimination leveled against the Untouchables.  But, just changing their nomenclature to “Dalits” hadn’t changed the convenience afforded those even in the lowest level of the caste system upon having another group of individuals in society even lower than they.

During the British colonization of India, the English never really figured out how to unravel the death grip of the Hindus’ reincarnation, caste system, complacent resistance, civil disobedience, and movements of non-cooperation.  They finally figured the price was too high to continue their involvement in India and in August 15, 1947, pulled up stakes and sailed home.

It had really only been in very recent times that India had shown a positive blip on the screen of economic progress.  The technology industry had tended to ignore the restrictions of the caste system.  Multinational organizations from the US, Japan, and Great Britain couldn’t have cared less about the cultural status of a national worker in India.  If the individual was smart enough to design, build, engineer, or service computers or other high-tech systems, they were hired and could become very rich.  In 2002, over 80% of all computer programmers in the world were men and women from Indian decent.  Their minds were keen and their technical creativity unequaled.  The world of the computer was finally somewhat blurring the lines of the caste system and allowing real wealth to trickle down through the Indian economic structure.  With that wealth Indians were becoming highly mobile and were becoming participants in a more global economy and social structure.

Next Week: Our involvement in India’s unending natural disasters.    
 


SO, WHAT'S THE SCORE? I'LL BET YOU NEVER KNEW

Many times in the 30-year history of Project C.U.R.E. I was tempted to believe: The task is too daunting, the enemy too great, somebody keeps moving the finish line, and just how do you bridge the gap and fill in this bottomless hole of poverty, sickness, corruption, and death? The response was always: take another deep breath, schedule one more international assessment trip, send out one more ocean-going cargo container of medical supplies, keep swinging, keep fighting, keep pushing. I would often draw on biblical admonitions like:

“So, take a new grip with your tired hands, stand firm on your shaky legs, and mark out a straight, smooth path for your feet so that those who follow you though weak and lame, will not fall and hurt themselves, but become strong.” (Heb. 12:12)

But we never really knew if we were making significant headway in the race. We knew we were saving thousands of precious lives and transforming thousands of needy hospitals and clinics, and encouraging tens of thousands of struggling doctors and nurses. We knew that if there were to be strong economies in the developing countries, those economies would have to be built on strong and healthy people. We just kept at the task.

Recently, however, a friend of Project C.U.R.E.’s President, Dr. Douglas Jackson, wrote a book, published by Simon & Schuster, entitled, “The Great Surge.” Steven Radelet is the author. He is a professor at Georgetown University and over the past thirty years has become a distinguished expert and advisor to developing nations. Thanks to Dr. Radelet’s incomparable and painstaking work, we now have a scoreboard erected at the end of the playing field. We can now get a glimpse of the real score. Radelet claims:

“We live at a time of the greatest development progress among the global poor in the history of the world. Never before have so many people, in so many developing countries, made so much progress in so short a time in reducing poverty, increasing incomes, improving health, reducing conflict and war, and spreading democracy.”

Dr. Radelet goes on to explain that over 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty during the past twenty years. But few people would have ever heard of such a thing or believed it should they have heard the information regarding one of the greatest achievements in human history. He cites a recent survey showing that 66 percent of Americans believe that the portion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has doubled during the last two decades, and another 29 percent thought it has stayed roughly the same. That means that 95 percent of Americans would have totally missed this revolutionary news. The real score is that the average income for hundreds of millions of people in dozens of poor countries has more than doubled.

In 1960 twenty-two out of every hundred children born in developing countries died before their fifth birthday. Now it is only five. Seventeen more kids out of a hundred have a chance to live today. In 1990 nearly thirteen million children died from preventable diseases. By 2013 that number was down to 6.3 million. There has been an increase in life expectancy. In 1960 life expectancy was around fifty years. Now life expectancy is 66 years. Today, people born in developing countries can expect to live one-third longer than just twenty years ago.

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Dr. Radelet goes on to show how this unprecedented progress is effecting the ravages of poverty, creative methods of increasing incomes, development of broader access to and better practices in health care and education, and a wide spread of democratic practices in local and national politics.

We have been an engaged and active participant in this global phenomenon since it started. Just look at the scoreboard. We are actually beginning to win this ball game!

I was incredibly encouraged as I read Steven Radelet’s book. Thanks Steve, for your indefatigable work. This is Project C.U.R.E.’s 30th year of procuring and delivering donated medical supplies and pieces of medical equipment into over 130 developing countries around the world. We have now become the largest handler of donated medical goods in the world. It is humbling to know that the simple efforts of all the staff and volunteers at Project C.U.R.E. have added to the score in a monumental way. Wahooo! and Yipeee! . . . we are winning. Together, we really can make a difference for good in this old world!

“We live at a time of the greatest development progress among the global poor in the history of the world. Never before have so many people, in so many developing countries, made so much progress in so short a time in reducing poverty, increasing incomes, improving health, reducing conflict and war, and spreading democracy.”

Let’s keep this global phenomenon going. The rewards are definitely worth all the efforts. 

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QUANTIFIABLE RESPONSIBILITY

I don’t speak or write very often about the subject of fear. It isn’t that I’m such a brave fellow. It’s just that all the nooks and crannies of my Scotch-Irish disposition seem to be filled up with happy stuff. I try to choose happy over scared. Over decades of international travel, however, there have been some occasions when I probably should have been more afraid.

In 2004, I had just returned to Denver from a physically exhausting trip to Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and India and was headed that July morning for Montenegro. I experienced a situation that shook me to my emotional core. It was a fear I had never known before.

In order for me to catch my international flight, I had set our alarm clock for 4:30 Saturday morning. As I was headed to the shower, I was nearly overwhelmed by a most unusual and austere sensation. A powerful temptation was hammering me: “You have absolutely no need to head off to the Balkans this morning. You’re exhausted. Go back to bed and sleep. There is really no quantitative measure of responsibility for what you’re doing. No one can say, ‘Jim Jackson didn’t go to old Yugoslavia today, so forty-two people died.’ Since that can’t be measured or quantified, there can be no measurable responsibility either. You’re justified in staying home!” 

Indeed, it was a strange confrontation. The implications of the incident frightened me. It was true: I wasn’t observably responsible for goodness that might or might not come as a result of trip to old Yugoslavia. No other person was forcing me to get up and catch that flight. My responsibility ran along a different line.

I knew I needed to get on that airplane. The simplicity of responding to what I knew I needed to do was the real issue of responsibility. The rest would flow as a consequence of my obedience. I somehow knew that the compelling temptation to compromise—to lie down and go back to sleep—would have neutralized my clear imperative. I also intuitively knew that the neutralization would be contagious and affect my focus and dedication to what I was ultimately trying to accomplish. Exhaustion couldn’t even compare to what it would have felt like to quit. 

For the next few weeks, I couldn’t get the incident out of my mind: There is really no quantitative measure of responsibility for what you’re doing. No one can say, “Jim Jackson didn’t go to old Yugoslavia today, so forty-two people died.” Since that can’t be measured or quantified, there can be no measurable responsibility either. You’re justified in staying home! It scared me every time I thought about it! 

Six months earlier, while traveling in Zambia, I had performed a Needs Assessment Study at the Mwandi Mission Hospital. The hospital was beautifully situated on a wide bend of the river that flowed into the great Zambezi River. I had already asked hospital director Dr. Wezi Kaonga most of my needs-assessment questions, when he related to me some tragic news. His wife was also a doctor in the pediatrics and community-health departments. Dr. Kaonga told me that he and his doctor-wife were getting ready to leave Zambia. Recently their two-and-a-half-year-old son had contracted pneumonia. That shouldn’t have been too difficult for Mom and Dad to handle, since they were both well-trained doctors, and Mom was an experienced pediatrician. 

Without warning, however, the little child died with both of them there. The grief was unbearable. They had succumbed to the overwhelming and paralyzing temptation of concluding, “If we’re both doctors and cannot even save our own baby boy from pneumonia, then we shouldn’t accept the responsibility of trying to save other people’s children.” The mother had already moved out of Mwandi, having declared that she would never again practice in the field of pediatrics. 

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My heart broke for them. It appeared they were allowing the quantifiable results of failure in one situation to define their future responsibilities. 

In contrast to that sad situation of perceived responsibility in Zambia, I was reminded of my good friend Dr. Kunar, who ran a free clinic in Rajahmundry, a city of nearly half a million people in eastern India. He belonged to a family of the high Brahmin caste but had specifically felt the need to take medical attention and help to the untouchables, the lowest-ranking people of India. 

That wasn’t a very politically correct decision, as Dr. Kunar explained to me: “You see, Dr. Jackson, it was a miracle that I’m a doctor in India. I was the first person to graduate from the medical school with that stated commitment. I finished second in my class, even though they did everything they could to turn me out and keep me from passing my exams. The governments of India had not addressed the severe needs of the poor and powerless. But I was supposed to be a doctor to the poorest people in this area, and it’s happening now.” 

That was the same attitude that had made the endeavors of Mother Teresa such a startling phenomenon in India. She might not have been able to change the world alone, but the stone she cast across the waters created many ripples.1 Mother Teresa and my friend Dr. Kunar had each faced insurmountable oppression and resistance in India. Others had demanded that their dedication to their tasks and their devotion to hurting people were really quite foolish, unnecessary, and out of sync with the reality of the culture. 

Yet neither Mother Teresa nor Dr. Kunar yielded to the idea that they had absolutely no need to get involved in helping the untouchables in Calcutta or Rajahmundry. No one could possibly have held it against them if thousands of people died because they never showed up to help. Since those results couldn’t be measured or quantified, there could be no measurable responsibility either. Yet each of them patently rejected that line of reasoning. 

Mother Teresa and Dr. Kunar knew that even though they would never live to see the full results of their efforts, their simple and willing obedience to doing what they knew they should do was the real issue of responsibility. Over the years I’ve tried to keep track of the work of my friend Dr. Kunar in Rajahmundry. No one else really cared about the untouchable rock breakers, who earned the equivalent of four dollars a week, and on average lived to be only twenty-seven years old. Dr. Kunar didn’t have to do what he was doing, but he followed his heart and dedicated himself to doing what needed to be done.

I’m eternally grateful that I got up, showered, and caught my flight to Montenegro that Saturday morning in July. The thought of how easy it was for me to rationalize staying at home rather than doing what I knew I ought to do still frightens me.

I want my life to be defined by instant and complete obedience to what I intuitively know I ought to do rather than cleverly justifying a choice that might ultimately neutralize any intended good I might do.


POVERTY

Poverty is a tragically slippery word. It can be massaged and bent to validate almost any point. Some think that if we would just stop practicing poverty, we wouldn’t have any more poor people. Martin Fisher once made the ill-advised comment, “The great doctors all got their education off dirt pavements and poverty—not marble floors and foundations.” And H. Rap Brown famously said, “You see, the poverty programs for the last five years have been buy-off programs.” 

The English word poverty came from the Anglo-Norman word poverte, and originally from the Latin word paupertat, which means “poor.” At its core, poverty refers to the lack of possessions to meet basic human needs. To further delineate the term, groups like the United Nations and the World Bank create categories of “absolute poverty” and “relative poverty” and varying standards of living. Bookshelves and web pages are packed with theories and opinions about the origins, causes, and consequences of poverty, as well as the proposed cures. It is, however, a shameful day indeed when we discover that by our own behavior, or our government’s behavior, we have been guilty of contributing to the bondage of poverty. 

These few paragraphs can’t possibly tackle the vast subject of poverty in its entirety. But I do want to share what I have personally seen and experienced since my first involvement in international travel and economic consulting. Specifically, I want to pass on the differences I’ve observed between the countries that experience relative wealth and those that experience relative poverty. I have traveled in more than 150 countries and have visited a large number of countries several times. I have had the opportunity to become personal friends with ministers of finance, ministers of health, presidents, prime ministers, and kings and have had the privilege of speaking at many universities in developing countries. Economics is a hot topic in these countries and evokes spontaneous questions and lively discussion if given a chance. 

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In the course of my travels, I’ve come to realize that certain practices separate wealthy countries from poor countries. Countries that pursue the following practices are wealthy or are becoming wealthy, while those that don’t are poor or are becoming poor:

  • Government is willing to allow the people to break the cycle of poverty. Ronald Reagan has been credited with saying, “Poverty is a career for lots of well-paid people.” The inevitable consequence of poverty is dependence. As in the case of subsistence farming, it’s a great temptation for the leaders of developing countries to allow the people to remain poor and dependent. It’s much easier to govern poor people who spend all their energy and time on daily survival. They don’t create any problems for the government, but the country remains poor.    
  • The people are given the right to hold and freely exchange private property. Private ownership of resources includes the rights of exclusive use and transfer.
  • Individuals are free to enter into voluntary agreements and contracts with each other.  
  • The rule of law is established and applied equally to all parties. Making agreements and contracts assumes that a third party will act as an objective enforcer. Contracts are meaningless if they aren’t enforced.  
  • Individuals are free to fail. Everyone in the transaction must be better off, or the deal will fail. If the deal is successful, wealth is created. If the deal fails, the individuals involved in the deal must learn why it failed and discover what will make it succeed.   
  • Society as a whole understands that the pursuit of an individual’s best interests isn’t necessarily greed (i.e., pursuit of self-interest is different from selfishness).   
  • Society rejects the zero-sum mentality, which asserts that when one person gets a piece of the pie, another is deprived of his or her piece. Wealthy societies, by contrast, ascribe to the view that the pie is big enough for everyone. Getting a piece of the pie doesn’t prevent another person from getting a piece as well. Successful transactions create wealth. And people create successful business transactions. Just because someone creates new wealth doesn’t mean that someone else ends up with less. Wealth creation springs from people who are allowed to freely participate in business transactions.   

To break the cycle of poverty in a developing country, income must be created. But income can only be created when resources are used to produce the goods and services people need. Countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and China now understand and encourage that concept, and as a result, they are increasing their wealth. Those countries that don’t allow such practices—like Zimbabwe, Mauritania, and Cuba—remain in poverty.    


ALL THAT IS NOT GIVEN IS LOST

One of the universal principles of stewardship is that I can hold on too tightly and lose everything or become richer by giving away what I have. The spirit of selfishness and hoarding trumps wisdom and blocks me from the subtle insights as to what and when I should let go. The tighter I grasp on to something, the faster it squeezes right through my fingers, and suddenly it’s gone. This principle is equally true for corporations, institutions, and individuals. Stewardship and benevolence just make good sense and good business. 

By watering other people and reaching out to meet their needs, we actually water ourselves. What we hoard we lose; what we give away and plant in the lives of others returns to us in multiplied measure. And in the final analysis, all that is not given away is lost. Project C.U.R.E. is one of the best examples of how this principle works out every day in the real world. 

In the business model and daily operations of Project C.U.R.E., we are dependent upon donations from other people and institutions. The thousands of lives that are saved through the efforts of Project C.U.R.E. are a direct result of the benevolence of others. We work expressly with medical manufacturers, medical wholesale businesses, and end users of medical goods. In a joint effort, we collect, process, inventory, warehouse, and distribute those medical supplies and equipment to needy hospitals and medical clinics around the world. We openly explain the benefits to them and their businesses of our working together. Then we ask them specifically to donate to us from their inventories. They believe in us and  the cause we represent, and for more than twenty-five years they have generously given to us.

The medical industry is very unique in that it deals with extremely time-sensitive inventories. The majority of items we receive are marked with an expiration date. When we receive the donated items, we don’t have the option or latitude to take our jolly-good time to process and deliver them to the needy international recipients. We’re always under the time gun, and we must be good stewards of what we’re given in order to maximize the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. 

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 It would be absolutely and criminally ridiculous for us to receive those donated goods, put them on our warehouse racks, and say, “Oh, look at us and see how very wealthy we are with all the millions of dollars’ worth of goods we have in our warehouses.” Those medical supplies and equipment were given to us to distribute to those with imperative need. We accept the responsibility of being trustworthy stewards of those goods. If we hoard the things we’re given, and we simply sit on those valuable gifts until the expiration dates slip past, we’re accountable for breeching our fiduciary responsibilities. 

It isn’t a whole lot different when it comes to the valuable inventories of our personal lives that we’ve so generously received. Like the time-sensitive medical inventories in Project C.U.R.E.’s warehouses, our personal talents and possessions are time sensitive. All of our clocks are ticking—just in case you hadn’t noticed. Your personal inventories are overflowing, even if you don’t feel so wealthy today.

What I hoard I lose. All that is not given away is lost. What I grasp too tightly, I squeeze right through my fingers, and it’s gone. But what I give away and plant in the lives of others returns to me in multiplied measure.

As much as Project C.U.R.E. gives away each year, every time I walk through our warehouses, I see more there than before. By watering other people and reaching out to meet their needs, we actually water ourselves. We can hold on too tightly and lose everything or give away what we have and become richer in the things that matter most in this life—richer in relationships; richer in quality of life; richer in personal expression, experience, and maturity; richer in wisdom; richer in true wealth, which transcends money. 

In the classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers reminds us,

Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love-gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded (see Exodus 16:20). God will never allow you to keep a spiritual blessing completely for yourself. It must be given back to Him so that He can make it a blessing to others.        


CONGRATULATIONS "Better Off" TAKES 1st PLACE GOLD AWARD

On August 19, 2017, at the 23rd Annual EVVY Book Award gala, Dr. James W. Jackson’s most recent book, “Better Off: How America Got Wealthy and You Can Too” was announced the winner of the coveted 1st Place Gold Award for all Literary Non Fiction books.  

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 The book is a product of over thirty years of international travel where Dr. Jackson had the opportunity to work in over one hundred fifty countries. He was able to observe and experience firsthand the rise and fall of nations and political systems. He has closely studied nations crippled by war, poverty, disease, and cultural flash points that have ignited into genocidal firestorms. He has also studied countries that have somehow overcome the ravages of cultural and economic disparities and today are better off. Dr. Jackson’s vast experience coupled with his intense sense of compassion drove him to seek answers to the haunting question, “Why some countries are wealthy while others are mired in poverty?”

Dr. Jackson was trained in business and economics, yet his true wisdom comes from lessons learned while observing and interacting with real people in nearly every corner of the world. It was his international economic consulting that led to his founding of Project C.U.R.E. In an era of clouds and doubts, this book of phenomenal possibilities of the exciting America of tomorrow, becomes a bright blast of sunshine to warm our future.

As Dr. James Terbush, past U.S. Command Surgeon of NORAD/Northcom, and Homeland Security has stated, “I would expect this book could be a catalyst for a new American renaissance and spur an economic recovery in the US if policy makers and politicians would put this into action.”

“Anyone who wants to know why some nations are rich and others are poor should read Dr. Jim Jackson’s new book, which cheerfully demolishes the shibboleths of government regulation and central planning as cures for poverty. Jim clearly and exuberantly explains how economic and political freedom, rule of law, and stable currency lead to prosperity and human progress, while statist policies cause economic stagnation, diminished life expectancy, and human misery. This is a rare book that deals authoritatively with crucial economic and political issues in a style that’s accessible and fun to read. I recommend it with great enthusiasm. Especially to congressmen, senators, presidents, and economic policy-makers, who should already know about these issues but evidently do not!”
United States Senator, William L. Armstrong
William L. Armstrong, past President, Colorado Christian University

"Better Off should be required reading for every young person in the US and anyone else looking for an understandable primer on economics".

To order your copy of Better Off  contact Project C.U.R.E. directly  www.projectcure.org

All Proceeds from the sales of Dr. Jackson's books go directly to funding Project C.U.R.E.'s international humanitarian work.                       
 


MY FIRST TRIP TO BELIZE (Part 4)

Belize: 1997 Travel Journal: Wednesday, February 19: It was after 1:00 p.m. when we left Dr. Ken’s office at the Belmopan hospital. Dr. Joe and I decided to grab a bit of lunch from the locals before starting out on the journey to our next appointment. I really enjoyed getting better acquainted with Dr. Joe. Last year he brought his wife and family to Belize and felt that God was calling them to give at least one year of their lives to doing medical missions here. In my opinion, Dr. Joe Ferguson will play an extremely important role in Belize’s health-care system as the government tries to decentralize their system and help the local and district representatives have more influence in the design and implementation of the national health-care plan. 

Dr. Joe and I talked at length about how he can go about changing the system through influence rather than authority. I encouraged him, pledging Project C.U.R.E.’s support for his efforts. Because the country is so small, everyone was abuzz about how Project C.U.R.E. could be invited to bring a new dimension of quality and quantity to the Belize health-care system. 

From lunch Dr. Joe and I jumped into an old black Ford pickup and headed toward the Guatemalan border town of San Ignacio. We wanted to do a needs assessment of the hospital there, but we also felt it very important to meet another key player in the health-care system, Dr. Armando Betancourt, the chief medical officer at the San Ignacio government hospital. 

To get to San Ignacio, we passed through some of the prettiest country on God’s green earth. We gently climbed toward the Guatemalan border and passed through a lot of land that had been cleared of jungle and planted with citrus groves. The Mennonites have done an extraordinary job of developing and cultivating a lot of Belize, especially the area around Spanish Lookout. 

Dr. Joe and I passed from undeveloped Third World landscape to beautifully maintained ranches and farms where every imaginable crop was being grown and with cattle that would surely have won prizes at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Their houses were modern, and their farm machinery and transportation vehicles were the latest models. 

We kept traveling parallel to the river and eventually drove into the quaint town of San Ignacio. I guess the best way to describe how the town affected me is to say that San Ignacio is to Belize what Estes Park is to Colorado. It is a fun town with lots to do and lots to see. Hotels are fifteen to twenty dollars per night, and there are lots of excursion outfitters who will take you for river rides, jungle adventures, or treks to see the ancient ruins of the Mayan civilization. With the town being so close to the Guatemalan border, I understand that San Ignacio also has quite a dark side, with drugs being smuggled over the mountains and down the rivers to the seacoast. 

Mrs. Patten is the matron we found to be in charge of the San Ignacio Hospital. The building structure was very similar to what I had witnessed in Haiti. It was a two-story, wood-sided building with large, screened-in verandahs extending from both levels of the building’s front side. The outside was painted a goldenrod color and trimmed in dark brown and white. The center had been fitted with a copula that rose another level to a third story, and in the back were covered walkways and a large steel water tank perched upon concrete columns. The people who ran the hospital were as characteristically quaint as the building itself. 

After we had waited for about thirty minutes, Dr. Armando Betancourt arrived. He said he had heard a lot about Project C.U.R.E. and was eager to work with us. It was very difficult to categorize the San Ignacio facility as a hospital, unless I wanted to shoot a movie depicting an early 1800s scene. In the maternity ward, the wrought-iron beds still had the original bassinets, which were designed to swing between the iron bedposts at the foot of the beds. The whole place put us into a wonderful time warp, but it really was not very functional. 

There is no lab facility at all in San Ignacio. The diagnoses are all done by guesswork. So the tendency is to over prescribe medications. The matron told us that people are not satisfied to go home from the hospital or even the clinic until they have received some kind of a shot. When they come just wanting a shot, she said that many times the doctors give them a series of placebo shots that are so painful, the people will be discouraged from coming back unless they are really sick. But, I asked myself, Without a lab, how do they know when a patient is really sick? 

The San Ignacio Hospital also does not have an x-ray machine. Dr. Betancourt literally begged for an X-ray machine, some surgical supplies and instruments, and an autoclave machine for sterilization. I told Dr. Betancourt that Project C.U.R.E. would be pleased to work with him. I instructed him to work directly with Dr. Joe Ferguson, who will be able to coordinate filling their basic needs. 

After the meeting, Dr. Joe and I stopped at one of San Ignacio’s picturesque watering holes and had a Coca-Cola. We accomplished more today than we had set out to accomplish. I had been able to meet all the people I felt necessary and had viewed all the main hospitals in the Belize health-care system. Dr. Joe was extremely pleased that he had been able to meet so many of the important health-care players with whom he will be associating over the next year. 

The jungle rains continued. The black Ford pickup truck we were driving punched holes in several of the low-hanging clouds, and we got thoroughly drenched on our return trip to Roaring Creek. The ground was totally saturated, and the surface water was running freely toward the river as we approached the swinging footbridge. 

The iguana that had been out earlier in the tops of the bamboo trees were now seeking safer and dryer shelter in rain forest below. 

I was glad that I had set aside the time to travel to Belize for the assessment trip. I have a feeling that Project C.U.R.E. will continue to be involved with Belize for a long time in the future. The medical team was remaining for a few more days. But I felt I really needed to get back to Denver, catch up on my homework and prepare for my upcoming trip to Africa. Things just kept getting increasingly busier and busier . . . I like it that way!
 


MY FIRST TRIP TO BELIZE (Part 3)

Belize: 1997 Travel Journal: Wednesday, February 19:  One of the pharmacists in the group got up at about 3:30 a.m. and wandered from the sanctuary bunkhouse across the compound to the toilet building. Quite inadvertently he awakened the stupid rooster who rules the entire west side of the river during the daylight hours. In my opinion, a Campbell’s soup can would be too good of a final resting place for that cocky, noisy bird. But the rooster’s annoyance, to say nothing of his annoying cock-a-doodle-do, was way too big to fit into a Campbell’s soup can. At any rate, once awakened, he decided to wreak vengeance on all who were still asleep. It was like he began crowing, “Cock-a doodle-do, if I have to wake up, then so will you!” At 3:30 in the morning, it only served as a frustration to him that he could not get the sun to come up like it usually does twenty minutes after he starts his routine. So he crowed louder and more often from sheer desperation. I think he panicked because he began to believe the rumors from the hen house that he has lost his former machismo. 

The crowing also caused the women in their building to not be able to sleep. So by the time I sneaked out of the sanctuary and headed toward the shower building, I was way at the back of a long line. Stupid rooster! 

After we finished eating, Bill Ruth asked me to share about Project C.U.R.E. and its ministry for the devotional time. I told the team about Project C.U.R.E. and its mission around the world. Next, I bragged on them for being in Belize and allowing Jesus to extend his love through their healing hands and warm smiles. Then I spent the rest of my time just bragging on Jesus. 

The medical team was scheduled for a day of rest and relaxation. They were to take an old church bus to the Caribbean seashore and out to an island on the barrier reef where they could swim and snorkel in the crystal-clear water and view God’s magnificent aquarium from the inside. 

I did not choose the option to go to the beach. Dr. Joe Ferguson and I had made appointments that would take at least all day to fulfill. I am going to leave for home almost a full week before the rest of the medical team will fly back to Colorado. There are many things I need to do to finish my Needs Assessment Studies in Belize.

Our first appointment was with Mary Lee Ellis, head of the Red Cross in Belize. She is a native-born Belizean and probably has a better grasp on the chaotic state of affairs of the Belize health-care system than even the minister of health does. Our meeting lasted for two hours and was extremely timely and enlightening. We discussed Project C.U.R.E.’s potential role in the country’s health-care future and also discussed in great detail how Dr. Joe Ferguson’s being in Belize for the next year could bring about historic results as he works as a liaison and resource person. Mary Lee and Dr. Joe decided to work closely together to influence the direction of the present system, with Project C.U.R.E. coming alongside the situation and donating the desperately needed medical supplies and equipment.

Before we left, Mary Lee and one of her assistants began telling Dr. Joe some of the challenges of jungle medicine he will encounter when he arrives for his year-long assignment. She told him about the centuries-old remedies used in curing centuries-old maladies of the rain-forest river country. Herbs and potions have been found to be far more effective against some of the jungle diseases than the most modern of medicines. 

Mary Lee and her assistant Rosa then described how to extract a beef worm from a human body. The worm hatches from an egg laid under the skin. After the egg hatches, the worm burrows into the flesh and around the bones. If doctors try to operate and cut out the worm, they will simply mutilate the patient’s flesh while trying to follow the worm’s pathway through the tissue. Even then the chances are great that they will not have gotten out the whole worm.      
Mary Lee and Rosa gave us the secrets of beef-worm extraction in the jungle. They simply cake over the external hole with Colgate toothpaste. That cuts off the air supply to the worm. But there is also something in the Colgate that attracts the worm to burrow out through the Colgate instead of going deeper into the flesh or exiting somewhere else to get oxygen. Mary Lee told us that she must wait patiently until the worm sticks its head out of the flesh long enough to ensure that she is able to catch its head firmly with a pair of forceps. Then, Mary Lee told us, she needs someone like Rosa with strong thumbs to get on either side of the worm deep beneath the surface of the flesh and begin to systematically squeeze upward on the worm while Mary Lee forcefully pulls the worm out of the resident body. The worms can be very long, and great care must to be taken not to pull the worm apart during the procedure, lest the residual is left to burrow its way even deeper into the host body. The process can be quite fatiguing, but both Rose and Mary Lee instructed Dr. Joe to never back off the intensity once the procedure is underway. 

With that tidbit of valuable jungle medical advice, Dr. Joe and I made our way to our next appointment with Dr. Jesus Ken at the Western Regional Hospital. Dr. Ken is officially responsible for overseeing the administration of the hospital, but with the new health plan in Belize, he was also made director of the regional health-care services. That has left him hardly any time to do his medical practice, to say nothing of the oversight responsibility of the hospital in Belmopan. 

Dr. Ken was still at a meeting when we arrived, so we took the time to get acquainted with Matron III Palacio, who actually runs the hospital. Her first name is not Matron; that is her position. The III that follows her position signifies her rank. So Matron III signifies the highest rank around the place. She has been in Belmopan for eighteen years. 

The matron showed us around the hospital, and when Dr. Ken returned, I began going through the questions for the Needs Assessment Study. I could see that my summary was going to be very simple: “Belmopan hospital needs everything.” The hospital has almost no supplies. Their X-ray machine does not work. They have no modern surgical instruments, and when they try to use the big light in the operating room, it shorts out. 

I set my notebook on the table, took off my glasses, and asked Dr. Ken, “If we were making out a Christmas wish list for your hospital, what would be the three most-needed items on the list?” 

He didn’t hesitate a split second. “Number one, an incinerator to burn our hazardous medical waste, the placentas, and the removed body parts. Right now we are trying to bury them around here. Number two, a commercial stove. We have nothing but a small burner to heat or cook anything here. Number three, a new light for the operating theater. It is so difficult to do emergency surgery when the light shorts out and we are left in the dark. Then if you were to ask about item number four on our wish list, it would be a small refrigerator.” 

While I was writing down his answers, I reflected on all the things people had requested from Project C.U.R.E. In Russia they were demanding I bring them a brand-new lithotripter with a price tag of over one million dollars. Lots of hospitals were begging for the newest model of CAT scan. But three of the four top items Dr. Ken requested for the Belmopan Hospital had nothing to do with new, highly sophisticated pieces of medical equipment—an incinerator, a stove, and a refrigerator. By the way, let me remind you one more time, Belmopan is the capital city of Belize. My heart really hurts for those people in medical communities around the world who have to do without the simplest pieces of equipment or have had to watch their patients die for lack of some inexpensive supplies. 

Oh yes … speaking of medical subjects, I suppose by now you have heard about the woman in Colorado who took her dog, Butch, to the veterinarian. She was certain the dog had fallen into a deep sleep or had experienced some sort of seizure or coma. The vet told her that he was very certain her dog was not asleep but rather was dead. He said, “However, if you want to pay for the clinical tests to see if Butch is indeed dead or alive, I will be happy to perform the procedure.” 

She agreed, whereupon he laid Butch on the floor, went to the back room, and took out of one of the cages a huge tomcat with an attitude problem. The doctor set the tomcat down next to Butch. The cat arched his back and proceeded to hiss and spit at limp old Butch. Finally he walked right up to Butch’s head, extended his sharp claws, and swiped a mean stroke across Butch’s dry nose. Absolutely no response. The vet picked up the tomcat and returned him to his cage in the other room; then he came out and presented the lady with a bill for his services. 

“Three hundred dollars,” she screamed. “For what?”

“Five dollars for the examination and office call and $295 for the cat scan!”

Next Week: First Trip to Belize, (continued )