When you travel the world, you meet some amazing people. They make your heart glad. They make your stay pleasant. And they make leaving so difficult.
But what makes these people amazing are the lessons they teach you. Usually, they have no clue your world is being rocked by the little thing they’re doing or saying. And more often than not, you yourself don’t realize how much your world is rocked until you’re back at home, closing your eyes tightly to remember their faces.
It started with limónes. And with a passage regarding love.
When I was in Camichines, Mexico, I learned a new facet of the diamond of love. You see, I had been reading an incredible book, “An Altar in the World” by Barbara Brown Taylor. This one particular chapter was on ‘Encountering Others’. In it, the author talks about her desire to be loved in particular, not in general. She’s convinced God intimately knows and loves His children. Even the quirky little things that make an individual different than every other person.
Thursday. March. 24.
There was a plastic crate full of limónes that needed to be cut in half and squeezed into a pitcher to make juice. Myself and another team member recruited some of the kids to help us by using the little metal squeezer as we cut the limónes in half.
Every kid loved the idea of helping until after about 5 minutes when they got bored or distracted. Every kid except one.
For the sake of this blog, I shall call him ‘Pedro’.
Pedro is 10 years old and at the time I was there, he spoke very little English (‘hello’ and ‘thank you’). Pedro sat next to me and squeezed a couple hundred limónes. Being able to speak some Spanish, I’d try to get him to talk, asking him about his favorite animal, favorite food, favorite game, etc, but I was lucky to get three words out of him. It was like there was a wall between us. I spent a lot of time encouraging him and his work (in Spanish) to which he would simply smile.
Finally, I decided to brush up on my Spanish by asking him “comó se dice en Español” while pointing to different things. He started to give me the Spanish word for that which I was pointing at. And after some time, I said to him “muy bien”. He looked at me and said, “comó se dice en Ingles”. So I said, “very good”. ‘Pedro’ smiled a huge grin and said in English, “very good.”
The wall between us was broken. The barrier, demolished. We continued the job, listing colors and numbers in English and Spanish. His beautiful smile never faded. And we finally reached the bottom of the crate of limónes, having squeezed all the juice into one, large pitcher.
The previous four days, I had been playing with 8 beautiful children at the Little Ranch with Hope, and though I knew their names, I referred to the 8 children as ‘the little kids’. I had built up a wall of safety to make leaving easier, thus neglecting to really be part of the sacred in the time spent swinging and reading and playing. But in this moment with Pedro, I saw in his eyes the past of hurt, the hope of a future, and the love of God. I saw the child for who he was and I loved him in that moment…not for what he had done, or for what he would become. Just love for him.
And now, I spend many minutes staring at this picture…
I spend many minutes praying he has come to know what Love really is. I pray he encounters grace and restoration. And I pray he embraces his individuality, as I have: the awkward dancing, the crooked smile, the gentle hugs, the beautiful brown eyes, the protector-spirit, and the joyful laughter.
And during the minutes I’m not praying, I’m singing this song.