It’s been the longest five days of my life. Dulce and i made it to Xico after many bus rides.  on one of the bus rides, we saw a young boy and girl dressed in casual clothing, their faces glib when looking at others, but smirked when speaking with each other. I remember that the girl was young, about 13, dressed in baggy clothing, and she had a fresh tattoo on her arm. the flesh around the black ink was red and puffy on her bony arm. the boy touched it and the girl gave an aggressive wince. when abroad, when language is not available, I am much more sensitive to non verbals and vibes. I watched the passengers on the bus ignore the kids while acknowledging others with a smile or nod. the kids carried themselves in a manner that showed their sense of invincibility coupled with a deep, buried yearning for acceptance – later demonstrated in the 13yo girl’s proactively helping a passenger carry his heavy sacks of grains off the bus. In the background one young white male with dreadlocks and a Mexican female dressed in bohemian style linen clothing banged their drums in rhythm while singing:

“Tierra mi Cuerpo, Agua mi Sangre, Aire mi Aliento, Fuego mi Espíritu…”

only in Mexico.

But the thing i’d like to write about is our experience at Casa Hogar del Frijol.Tthis woman named Blanca built this project where she took los ninos de la calle (kids from the street who you usually see selling gum and trinkets on the streets of Mexico) and put them in la Casa Hogar to rehabilitate them. The orphanage was in the country and the boys lived there with basic necessities – a place to sleep, bathe, eat, learn, and love.

The boys must choose to be there. if they choose to stay, they have to give up drugs, and commit to a different life. The youngest boy is 5 or 6 and the oldest ones are teenagers. Once they are 18, they are launched into the world hopefully with enough discipline, skill, and hope to make a life for themselves.

Today i was annoyed with my tears. i was a mess. Ni modo. I told myself not to get too attached to the boys but i did. Mario, Dario, Alejandro, y los otros… Again, there were no words to describe the experience. i haven’t been to a setting like that where we spend an entire day with kids, throwing water balloons, eating cocos fresh off the trees, papayas y naranjas fresh from the fields, sharing a meal, breaking bread, celebrating a birthday, listening to the boys tell their personal stories… all of it.  We listened while one boy recounted his story of leaving an abusive home to find himself in the hands of abusive adults who gave him work to work the streets but provided him with little yet took a lot. Some of these kids are given recreational drugs to develop dependency which deters them from leaving their work on the streets. i felt so much that I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

It started for me at the lunch table – when we prayed for our food. The boys were so kind, loving, and generous, – they prayed with genuine respect. I also saw the respect that these kids had for one another, for Blanca, and for us. I was floored. I think about the kids in the U.S., particularly in the OC and how they have so much but have no respect or humility. What are we teaching our children?

What really got my heart was thinking about how their lives would have been different had Blanca not found them. These boys are the same ones that we shoo away from our dinner tables, who hear “no gracias” table after table, day after day. I take a moment to reflect on the things I complain about, not having enough money, my windshield chipping, my internet being slow, my laptop being too old… put things in a bit more perspective.

Blanca is an angel for dedicating her life to this. She said she is from Spain and when she visits home, it’s not home. She feels that her home is with the boys… this is where she belongs.

I thank Life for providing me the opportunity to meet these souls and to interact with them. Although I do not speak Spanish well enough to communicate with them, I felt that we understood each other just fine, through water balloon fights, laughter, and sharing food. I thank Life for reminding me of what really matters in life and show me the ways in which we are all so different, yet the same.