Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Higher Love

What are you doing to reduce global warming?
8 people are killed each day via mo-ped accidents on this small island. It is the main source of transportation for people in the Dominican Republic and I found out why they’re so dangerous as soon as I left breakfast. The group boarded a bus at 9:00 to visit a small village just outside of Juan-Dolio and we were immediately surrounded by a swarm of mopeds dodging and weaving in between traffic sometimes in spaces as narrow as three feet between cars traveling at 50 mph+. One family decided to go green and travel together, all four of them on one bike.

We came to a stop at a red light and I looked out the window to see a policeman approach the truck stopped next to us to ticket the driver. John Zeller, the Director of the organization and team chaplain for the NY Yankees was sitting next to me and said, “Usually a $10 bribe will get you out of any traffic ticket in the Dominican.” A few seconds later the driver of the truck slipped a wad of Dominican currency out of the window, the officer pocketed it, and walked back to his motorcycle.

The first kids following us to the village
The bus took us about fifteen minutes further down the street before turning onto a dirt road where we were circled by a group of twenty shirtless & shoeless kids that ran alongside the bus for a quarter-mile on rocks and gravel before we stopped in the village. Instantly, at least a hundred little kids surrounded the bus, pounding on the windows and shaking the bus as the adults came out of their homes to see what the noise was all about. We couldn’t even open the doors of the bus to get out. Zeller with his limited Spanish vocabulary started yelling, “Backo!! Get Backo!”. Evidently, the kids didn’t understand and continued the onslaught with even more force, rocking the bus like a football team before a big game. Finally the driver ordered the children to back up, en Espanol this time, until we were able to open the doors and walk down the steps. As soon as my foot hit the ground a nine year old boy grabbed onto my hand and squeezed it until my fingers turned white. He made an effort to pull me through the crowd and wouldn’t stop until he did. I was curious as to why he immediately took hold of my hand, where I was going, and what he wanted from me. He was nearly dragging me when he fell down on his knees, got up and kept pulling me. Finally, we broke through last of the crowd and he turned around to face me. Still gripping my hand with an ear-to-ear smile he said, “Me llamo Enrique”.

My instinctive ‘Americanized’ reaction to this was….ooookay, thinking that there must be some ulterior motive to this considering he bloodied his knees and struggled to get me away from the mob scene . Then he picked up a badly worn baseball with no cover, essentially a ball of yarn, and flipped it up to himself. He caught it and looked back at me, waiting for me to respond.  I reached way back into the “depths” of my Spanish education and replied with sophisticated linguistic savvy, “Me llamo Adam.” He laughed at my monkey-see-monkey-do attempt to converse in his language but after I snapped out of it we were able to carry a simple dialogue about his family and what they like to do every day. Enrique was the happiest person I have ever met in my entire life.

I said ‘Americanized reaction’ earlier because our culture teaches us to be content once we have materials in our possession. Money, ipods, expensive clothes, smart phones, huge TV’s, laptops, Range Rovers, jewelry. When we get our hands on those, that’s when America feels satisfied. So when he led me away my thought process was, “What is he going to ask me to give him?”. Enrique knew that we came to the village to give things away. He knew my backpack was full of key chains, necklaces, clothes, bracelets, baseballs etc. He knew if he asked I would have given these things to him but he didn’t. Enrique never asked for anything. He just got a hold of my hand and we talked. Correction: He talked, I sort of stuttered some Spanish words I remembered from a vocab quiz last semester. He wanted connection and relationship with another person. Why was this such a shock to me? It shouldn’t be. We were created to love and be loved by the God who created love. Were asked to share that with each other and enjoy it. Instead we have chosen to love the things that we, as people, have created. These things are fillers that satisfy your mind but not your soul. Your mind is controlled by society, but a [higher love] has a grip on your soul. It really made me check myself. Am I doing things right?

I’d say Enrique is doing something right. The kid doesn’t have shoes, he owns one shirt that he doesn’t even wear, sleeps in a tin house that’s held together by string, his family can’t have more than $50 to their name, yet he smiles and laughs more than anyone I have ever seen in the 21 years I’ve been on this earth. Relationship—Satisfaction—Happiness—Higher love. It all comes full circle. What I felt from Enrique was a higher love that I’ve never seen before. Its been one day and my perspective on life has changed dramatically. A lot more stuff happened today that I want to write about. We played a baseball game. It was my first time playing a game in 6 months since my surgery and it felt awesome. Glory be to God, more to come tomorrow.

Post script: I did give Enrique something from my backpack before we left. A Major League Baseball signed by Martin Prado that I got when visiting my friend Kate Heyer in Atlanta. He  said gracias over 17 times.

No comments:

Post a Comment