Three sentences. That’s all it took to know Reyna was extraordinary. I met her just a few days ago. Reyna’s spirit reverberated in her Dominican home and into the heart of this American visitor. And she unsettled me in profound ways with her unassuming heroism.
Reyna’s modest home fronts a dirt alleyway in the town of El Seibo, a busy city in the heart of the Dominican Republic. Life isn’t easy in her neighborhood. Deficient infrastructure, education, and sanitation shackle her community. But Reyna’s smile wasn’t lacking. She approaches life like an eager Coloradan advances on a challenging hike—with vigor, optimism and confidence. Her enthusiasm is surprising because of poverty’s grip on her city. But it is remarkable because of her impairment. Reyna was blinded at the start of her adult life. At the age of 20, Reyna lost her sight.
“God has given me so much. My job is to give back to others.”
An embarrassing lump grew in my throat when she voiced those words. Reyna was a charity case poster child. She could have starred in a Sally Struthers infomercial. Dirty water. Substandard hospitals. Single woman. Blind. But Reyna didn’t see it that way. Her impairment didn’t cloud her identity. Reyna knew she was a strong, purposeful and capable woman. She could see she was designed in the very image of her Creator.
Reyna has unhampered ambition. She launched a business and it grew dramatically. The corner Target, her store provides it all: Rice, flour, cooking oil, toiletries and more. She trusts her faithful clients to pay in full. When new customers stop in, however, she keeps their payments separate till a faithful client stops in to verify. She treats her customers with class and only sells the best products. And her business has grown enormously profitable.
And that’s a good story: The rags-to-riches blind entrepreneur. But Reyna’s story was just beginning. She’s since taken in her sister’s two children and raised them. Her nephew now studies at the Dominican Air Force academy. Her teenage niece aspires to medical school. She is a leader at her church. While she answered my many questions, she interrupted our conversation with a phone call. That might have been rude, but in a very “that’s Reyna” sort of way, the caller was a young woman in her church who was preparing for a surgery and looking for her counsel. Reyna refuses to succumb to, or even acknowledge, low societal expectations.
“God says that, ‘Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,’ she recounted. “We’re called to be openhanded in our success and that’s what I try to do.”
It’s as if she doesn’t get it. Reyna, I see you as the poor in this proverb. You’re the blind woman in the developing country. She deflects what I might assume about her because she knows what her Father thinks about her. And she’s chosen to share in her success. She extolls everyone to embrace the gifts God’s given them.
“There a many blind people in my city that are not working. Why? They are more than capable. This is a big problem for us.”
Reyna captivated my imagination for the hour I stood in her home. She, of course, had prepared a patented dulce de leche dessert for us. And, of course, she cried several times in gratefulness for all God had given her. It’s what heroes do. Nothing fabricated and no veneers. Reyna was created to create and gifted to gift. No barrier was going to keep her from seeing that.