One day, Lauren and I were driving around looking for Wilmer, as usual. And, as usual, the first person we found was a kid named Marvin. Literally, every single time I’ve looked for Wilmer, I’ve found Marvin. Immediately. I can spend days looking for Wilmer and every lead we chase down turns up nothing. But, I pull up to a stoplight and who pops out from behind the newstand to wash my windows? Marvin. I stop at a gas station to find out who the child sleeping in the grass might be. Marvin. It’s now to the point that this trip he just hopped into the car to help look as soon as I pulled up next to him. (If only I could get a picture of the look on people’s faces…) We drove around. Looked for Wilmer. Couldn’t find him. So, I took Marvin back to the gas station that he usually hangs out at.
We had some time before our next obligation for the day, so Lauren and I decided to just hang out with Marvin for while. The gas station is near a busy roundabout and you’ll often see lots of street people hanging out or sleeping in this large grassy area in the middle of the road. This is where we headed with Marvin. There were already a few other people there, sitting on cardboard or buckets of water (that they use to wash car windows). We chatted with them for bit when I noticed that Darwin, who is sort of like the ‘boss’ of the street kids, give one of the kids some Lempiras. Then the kid headed to the gas station. After a while, the child came back with a very large soda and two clean cups. He gave the soda to Darwin and Darwin proceeded to serve Lauren and I a cold cup of orange flavored pop.
It was one of those ethereal moments when the tables have been completely turned. Darwin’s girlfriend had been reclining on a very dirty pillow on a piece of cardboard as we talked about how she’s pregnant and Darwin knows he needs to get a job because the street is no place to raise a child. As we sat there more kids joined us, scavenged around for some sort of vessel that will hold liquid (because Darwin wouldn’t allow them to drink straight from the bottle with us around) and we sat there sipping our soda. This group has nothing, and yet they bought us a drink.
I know that most of the people we were with have debilitating drug addictions. So, to buy something for us, meant less later. I’ve been told by many of the kids that Darwin has a crack addiction. (Even though he swears to me that he hasn’t used in years.) That soda cost him a significant portion of what he needs on a daily basis. Is it strange that that makes this seem like even more of a selfless act?
Do you remember way back in October when I told David’s story? I talked about a man who would beat David up every night if he didn’t earn 100 Lempiras every day. That man is Darwin. Darwin is the man who bought us a soda from the money that he and the kids have earned (or stolen). This also makes my head spin. On one hand this man is evil. He uses and abuses children to feed his habit. But he is capable of kindness. Even though he is regularly violent, he at times protects the kids from others. He showed us hospitality and modeled it to the other kids. Please don’t think that I’m saying giving me a glass of soda wipes away the blows that have landed on a child’s body. I’m just a little bit befuddled by the lack of black and white. He is neither completely evil nor (obviously) completely good.
He also talked about how he was in Proniño for a few years nearly a decade ago. So I looked at him and wondered what 14 year old that I love will become just like Darwin in ten years if he doesn’t make the right decisions now and if we don’t do everything we possibly can to help him make good decisions.
Even though it often tears my heart out, I love this work. I love that I am constantly learning. I love that it breaks down what I once though was black and white. And I love, love, love that people that often have no intrinsic value in our world can convict me, teach me and move me to action.
If you come to my house, I promise to give you a soda in a clean glass.