If you’ve read the last three posts, then you’re probably expecting this one to end with the same result. One more kid back in Proniño. I’ve always hated reading books in which I’m filled with hope only to find that the book ends in tragedy. So, I’m going to start with the end.
Carlos (on the left) is still on the street.
And at 16, having used up all of his chances at Proniño, this is where he’ll stay.
There’s so much I want to say and my thoughts are far from well-organized at this point. I’ll start with these pictures.
On the left is the smile you’ll see most of the time. Cute, right?
But below is the smile that you are blessed with if you catch him when he’s feeling uninhibited. Gorgeous.
He was on the street in July and as soon as I found him, he immediately wanted to come back to Proniño. I didn’t even ask him. He brought it up himself. There was no wavering. He knew what he wanted. But a few days after we arrived, he started doubting himself. I was confident that this was a temporary problem. Every conversation we had seemed to point to a self-esteem issue. His family life was so terrible that I honestly believe he made a wise decision to hightail it to the street when he had the chance. Since then he’s been in a few children’s homes. But he’s so shy and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. When you’re one of one hundred kids, you aren’t going to have many people telling you how great you are if you don’t do something for that attention. And when you feel like a wallflower, it’s harder to believe that you matter or that you’re worth caring about. Then comes my July team filled with people who thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And we watched this wallflower blossom. I didn’t think we could heal his wounds with a few kind words, but I thought those words would give him a foothold to fight. Every day we’d see more and more of his gorgeous smile. People were pouring encouragement into him. And then that started coming out of him. He was actually advising other kids who were thinking about running away that they were about to make a very poor decision. Incredible.
Then October 9th, 2012 happened and he ran away. How?? What??? Why? This couldn’t be happening. When we went to look for the kids on the Sunday after he left I thought he’d be begging me to take him back. I thought he’d be babbling about what a mistake he had made and that he didn’t want to throw his life away. Instead, he didn’t even want to talk to me.
At the airport I broke him away from the group to accompany me to the Hertz office. There was a lot of me telling me I believe in him and a lot of him shrugging his shoulders. Then me talking about what his life will be like if he misses this opportunity and him shrugging his shoulders. And me telling him I don’t want to tell his madrina about this…and him shrugging his shoulders.
I decided that maybe he is more of a visual learner and whipped out my notebook complete with colorful pens and drew (with my amazing skillz) a visual representation of his two options.
This is when he finally started talking. He said that he understands that being in Proniño will be better in the long run, but the drugs. He just can’t stop thinking about them. It’s an ever present cloud hanging over him and he’s tired. So he’s giving in. “And nothing you can say will make me change my mind.” And what do you say? Ultimately, it’s his choice. And he has chosen.
What now? He says that one day he will give up the drugs and leave the street. And out of frustration I want to say “Right, so when your addiction is worse and you don’t have a children’s home that will provide shelter, food and education free of charge, that’s when you’ll leave the street?” Mainly, I feel defeated. He’s a darn good kid. His life didn’t have to turn out like this. Yes, he has mountains to climb and demons to fight, but he also had help. And it’s so hard to allow him to walk away from it.
I don’t want to make it seem that I know, without a doubt, that his story is over. I don’t know the future. Maybe he will be able to pull himself up by the bootstraps and change his stars. Maybe he’ll find another organization that works with older boys. Maybe he’ll be able to find his mom and she can help him. Maybe….
(This is the last of a 4 part story. To start at the beginning, click here.)