This was a very “kiddy” week – it was fun and frustrating and exciting and sad – and I wonder if I will become numb to the roller coaster or if I will always feel such a range of emotions. On one hand I love the openness and apparent joy of Mexican children – they laugh loudly, hug warmly and embrace strangers with curiosity and openness. That makes me happy. On the other hand, in those same children I see pain and poverty and sickness and illiteracy and that makes me really mad. Today I felt a lot of mad. I think ‘mad’ is really just ‘sad’ mixed with particularly open eyes that sneak up on us every now and then. In this area of Banderas Bay, a place that is theoretically prosperous with the ever growing influx of tourist dollars, I expect the children to have enough. I am wrong. So we do what we can to make a difference and this week we had some great opportunities to deepen our relationships with our little friends.
One of our new tasks was to drive 5 of the Manos de Amor kids to Futbol Americano practice – not soccer but football. Grant and I have always believed that sport is important for children – it teaches discipline, structure, self-awareness, confidence, physical awareness and the ability to relate well to authority. Our daughters were gymnasts and we saw all of those things develop in their lives over many years of training and competition. Many of you have heard me joke (am I joking?) about opening a Gymnastics club down here. To invite Canadian and American teams to hold training camps here which will fund my real dream of providing sport to children who cannot afford it. So when Veronica asked if we would help drive some of the children to football practice 3 times a week we quickly agreed. I know this will be good for them – to run, to train, to compete.
So here we are sports parents again – but how different it looked this time around. By the third day, the other parents were welcoming us and talking to us, kindly smiling when they realized we could not understand much of what they were saying. The field was certainly not turf but a hard, uneven field of dirt. The stands we sat in were not bleachers but a pile of tires. When one of the boys needed to go to the bathroom, one of the other moms showed me where he could pee behind a car. When poor Jorge fell and cut his lip, there was no first aid kit, or ice, or even a Kleenex. He just spit blood on the field and kept going after I kissed his sweaty hair. I noticed that our children brought glasses from home rather than water bottles, so thanks to a donation from our Canadian friend Sean, we bought them water bottles (with the cool ice thingies inside). We also bought a football and Grant went over this afternoon to play catch with the boys and help them work on their plays. I don’t really know if there are any star football players in the group, but they had fun and worked hard and I was proud and happy. Go Pirates!
Working hard on the field
Cheering from the ‘bleachers’… thanks Sean Westerman of Bloom Church for the water bottles and practice football!
Getting in some extra practice
On Friday, while Grant practiced football with the boys, I went on a walk around the block with some of the girls. This was a walk with a purpose as Michelle, the only bilingual staff member at the orphanage, took her English lessons out of the classroom and into the neighborhood. Note the pretty flowers they picked for my hair!
Today was the last day of school before Easter vacation and the children that have families that can take them went home for 2 weeks. We drove Jose, Laurentino and Isabel home to San Vicente with a bag of food we had brought from Vallarta Adventures.
Heading home for vacation – Jose always takes a nap on the ride
That’s when I got mad. Blocks and blocks and blocks of houses made of cardboard, and tarps and pallets. Dirty black moldy water standing in the streets with disease hidden within. My little Lupita with skin infections and bloody open sores on her legs. A dead rat lying right by the front gate. And yet giant smiles and hugs because Lupita does not know that this is not how all children live. She is thin and next week I will try to take her to a doctor to get some cream for her legs. Maybe some children’s multi-vitamins to strengthen her body. I know that for the next two weeks these children will be home with little adult supervision as their mom works many hours a day. I worry if they will be okay alone.
Soon we will be heading home to Canada for a few weeks to pack up the rest of our belongings and Grant’s tools to finish the move we have started. I can’t imagine leaving these children even for a few weeks. Will someone be able to drive them to Futbol? Will Lupita’s family have enough? Will the many children in the orphanage who have been abandoned by mothers and fathers understand that we will return as fast as we can?
We are happy here – and we are sad here. Maybe that what makes life beautiful – to see the ugliness of a broken world but to know that God’s love can touch a heart and bring joy in the midst of it all. And to know that sometimes I get to be the one to deliver His message in the form of a hug or a kiss or a ride in the back of a little blue convertible.