I LOVE this kind of work. There’s a very real permanent and tangible sense of accomplish that comes from it. You’d see the guy next to you in a ditch three feet deep digging his heart out, sweat pouring off every inch of him and covered in dirt and grime and these were fancy New York guys, suit wearing guys, “men” type guys. I couldn’t help but feel that there was a reason they were working so hard. A conscious or subconscious attempt to dispel some kind of inner demons, perhaps a guilt that we had things so good where we live in the United States, especially those of us who live in New York. It’s a privileged lifestyle for sure. And we know it. You can’t help but feel a little uncomfortably guilty when you visit a place like this neighborhood we were in. So we worked our butts off till we dropped everyday. You’d pass out in the van ride home. Just fall asleep wherever you happened to sit. Brutal.
While I was working everyday various kids would come to the work site to ask what we were doing there. A bunch of fancy gringos with their floppy hats and fanny packs and coolers full of Gatorade. They’d just watch us for a while and move on. One kid though always hung out and helped me work. I don’t know what it was; perhaps it was because I’m a rocker dude –kids dig that no matter where i go. Perhaps it was because I spoke decent spanish but I was still a gringo so we could communicate. The thing that impressed me the most was that everyday he would go to school in the morning and then come right to the work site and seriously pound it out with us for the rest of the day. He’d squeeze water over my head and bring me stuff. He was cool. Probs 11 years old.
Long story short one day I decided to go visit his home and meet his family. I brought Pablo our group driver and translator with me. He and I had become good friends quickly. This is one of the things I like most about the me I was born into in this lifetime. There r plenty of things I don’t like that much. But I make friends easily and tend to keep them forever. I dig that.
As Pablo and I were walking there I couldn’t help notice how small the buildings were that each family lived in. Except in rural Africa and of course the favelas in Brasil I had never seen places so small. We’re talking 100 square feet for a family of three to five. Crazy! On the way there I heard this in my head say “I want you to take care of this kid Fishy. Ask the mom what he needs. I want you to sponsor him.” I replied “God? Hey I can barely take care of myself. How am I supposed to do that?” “I’ll help you. But just do it.”
So I asked the mom what the little guy needed most. She gave me a list of items. Clothes medicine school supplies. And in return I gave her an envelope full of cash. But that didn’t feel like enough. I understood that the voice in my head was requesting that I do more than that. Turns out that as most people already know Colombia the country has been severely decimated by the drug wars and all these crazy violent guerrillas. If a kid doesn’t go to private school they’ll often jus quit school at a young age and become a gun toting drug selling guerrilla themselves. She told me that the best thing that could happen to the boy (who I’m not naming deliberately) is that he attend a private military academy. He’d get a good education and be protected from getting into trouble.
I asked him the next day if that was something he’d be interested in or if it was just his moms wish for him. His eyes lot up as if I’d said “hey do you want your own basketball hoop” or something. Now the question was how. How do I pull this off? He’d need about about $1200 a year or more. And he was only ELEVEN. That was a big commitment. I’d already been sponsoring kids through World Vision and Christian Children’s Fund for years. But this was going to be different. A much larger annual commitment. At a time in my life when I was having a downturn financially. Why oh why why was I making this commitment?
I was making it because in was told to. By a voice in my head which has never steered me wrong. A voice I choose to consider my intuition or higher self or even God. I learned long ago not to ever ignore or deny that voice. But instead to always trust it. So I did. Within a few weeks of returning home I sent them enough money to pay for his tuition, his books and his uniform. That was four years ago.
Just now I transferred this year’s money into Pablo’s PayPal account. He was so moved by being there with me when I was speaking to the boys mom that he was tearing up and he told me “hey man I want to help you anyway I can with this if you’re serious. Most people from American come here and talk a lot but once they get home they forge about us and much of what they promise. You’re not going to do that. I have a feeling about you parcero.” He taught me that the word parcero means bro in Colombian slang.
Here we are four years later and Pablo and I are still communicating in a regular basis. He acts as the middle man between me and the boys mom and the school. He’s in his fifth year at this private military school now. He loves it. He’s doing great. He makes straight As. He’s trim and fit. He’s healthy. He’s happy. It hasn’t been easy. I must admit. Some years I’m really late in getting them the cash. As everyone knows the music business has taken a real dive over the last ten years. It’s hard to make big money now compared to even a few years ago simply because most people have stopped buying music. When that’s what you do for a living — create music to sell– well it ain’t as easy as it once was.
But nonetheless every year I’ve found a way to make it happen for the little guy. We talk to each other on Facebook all the time. He wants to come visit the United States. I made him a deal that if he learns English I’ll make that happen. I honestly couldn’t help him every year if it weren’t for the generosity of friends and family and without the assistance of Pablo. He’s never wavered in his initial promise to me that he’d help me as long as I was willing to hell the kid. It’s cool. We’ve developed a pretty cool friendship through the years. And we only spent about two weeks together in Colombia. But we’ve bonded over our shared commitment and joy over being able to help this kid. We can’t help but contemplate the difference we are making in his life in the long term. It’s a damn good feeling.
Sure it’s only one human being. But I have experience with this. I know he’ll go on to help other people in his life because of the advantages he had through us. And here’s the real lesson from the story. At least to me. If this young boy, who couldn’t speak a word of English when he keys there in that big open lot in his neighborhood, wouldn’t have come by everyday and helped me and worked so hard, I probably never would have gotten to know him well enough to feel so compelled as to sponsor him through school for the rest of his life. I mean that’s the truth. HE did this for himself. It was his dedication and work ethic that created this for himself. He has no one to thank but himself. I was just moved by his coolness and his willingness to help. I hope as he gets older he begins to see it that way. It’s a profound lesson.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone