Thursday, August 07, 2008

Guatemala Reflections 2


2. Thursday morning, we loaded about 35 youth into a school bus and went to the Guatemala City zoo. We had done the same routine the previous morning with another group of younger children. As we waited for the okay to enter, we waited in the parking lot outside the zoo, I with at least 4 girls crowded around me, requisite hugs, smiles and giggles. Excitement was in the air, and a strange attraction to me from these girls. Soon, I had a bangled bracelet being attached to my belonged to Genesis, a slight of frame, long-haired, beautiful girl. I had complimented her on the bracelet earlier, now, in sweet yet awkward exchange, it was mine. I kindly said "no" and "you don't have to do that" but it was not to be heard. She held my wrist with sincerity and said she wanted me to have it. As I weighed that interaction, a few of the older girls that I'd befriended on the bus ran up to me holding a necklace they had just purchased from one of the roaming tchachke vendors in the parking lot. A simple black rope held a small, white rubber dog. I had shown them pictures of my dog on the trip over, they saw that and thought of me. Still reeling from the generosity of these impoverished zone 18 kids, another few girls approached me with a necklace: okay, now this was getting was like kissing another guy with your boyfriend watching or something. Wide-eyed, I accepted this new gift, another simple black rope with a shiny, red "E" charm. They excitedly explained that "E" was for Elizabeth, my middle name. I had perhaps mentioned my "nombre secundario" to them in passing once, maybe twice, and they remembered? I have so much to learn from their kindness. But, the truth is, my newly gifted "bling" adorned my neck and wrist, I wondered if there was subtext to this loving display. Were they trying to win me so I would become their "Patrona" (sponsor) like their friends or siblings have. Did they just want to charm a gringa to make a lasting impression, a "connection."? Again, I cannot answer to their motives, and I want desperately to have simply accepted those gifts as love. Christ's love is without condition, no matter how much I want to disbelieve that, too.

3. A few hours after the "zoo bling" incident, we landed back at the ministry center to drop off the youth and say our final goodbyes to them. I accompanied David and Laura upstairs where we had planned to present a gift to one of the youth, Ericka, from her Patrona, Patty G. Earlier in the day, her dark eyes glittered as she asked me questions about "hermana Patty." "Did she cut her hair?....why didn't she come this year?...Are her eyes still blue?" Now, we presented Ericka with a small gift from Patty, and the sparkle I had seen earlier exploded into unabashed joy. As she tore through the red tissue paper to reveal a small blue purse, she was already squealing with glee "Oh...hermana Patty!!! Its so beautiful!" Her fingers moved quickly to unzip the bag and reveal more goodies inside, meant just for her. I was so moved by her uncontained smile and appreciation. A letter was enclosed from Patty, so I tried my best to translate it for Ericka, and when I was finished, I was surrogate Patty, recipient of Ericka's joyous hugs and kisses. "Oh thank you, thank you. I love you!" I hugged her back, held back tears and promised her I would pass along a message to Patty: "Tell her I love her and that I think of her all the time."

Child sponsorship at its most denoument needed.

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