In truth, I am not any kind of Special Wonderful. Not at all. The time I spend in Reynosa is, much like this blog and pretty much the rest of my life, all about Me. Here's are several points why:
Point the First: For the entire time my group is in Mexico I get to speak Spanish. I love to speak Spanish more than I love cheesecake, which is saying a big, big mouthful. Even before I spent 3 1/2 years in Costa Rica in the Peace Corps I loved the sound of Spanish, and finding meaning in those musical phrases was like discovering a secret passageway into another culture. This leads to two sub-points:
Subpoint A: Because I was the only one in our group who spoke Spanish with some degree of fluency, I felt useful. There is no better feeling in the world than feeling useful. Well, maybe feeling loved. Or maybe that feeling you have when the van FINALLY pulls over for a rest stop and you make it to the bathroom in time, but feeling useful is pretty spectacular.
Subpoint B: I've gotten old enough that I'm not embarrassed when I make grammatical mistakes. (Not in Spanish, anyway.) In my callow youth I wouldn't try to talk to someone in that language unless I had all the direct objects and passive voices and subjunctive tenses straight in my head, and that often led to some prolonged silences. Now I just babble, and if it doesn't make sense to the real Spanish-speaker I babble some more until it either does make sense or the person moves on.
Point the Second: I really, really needed that week. This has been pretty much a killer spring at my job, and I had frayed threads and untucked edges all over my psyche. If I take a week of vacation where I have internet access, I feel compelled to check email and put out work fires, no matter where I am. Except during this week, when I am completely out of electronic reach. We had internet for about 15 minutes mid-week and I pulled out my phone to see if I was needed. The first email I saw was someone who wanted a picture of something on campus, and I thought "Nope, not doing this now," and turned off my phone. By the end of the week the frayed threads had been woven back in and the untucked edges smoothed. I felt reasonably mended and was looking forward to getting back to my job.
Point the Third: We were surrounded by kids for whom I had no responsibility whatsoever except to love them. It was like having 42 grandchildren--someone else was feeding and clothing them, someone else was refereeing the playground squabbles (except that the children were refereeing their own playground squabbles to an admirable degree), someone else was supervising their personal hygiene.
Point the Fourth: Those kids...oh, those kids. See the little boy in the picture above? His mom sent him to school with with a baggie containing three strawberries for his recess snack. He gave one to my friend (seen with him), one to me, and kept only one for himself. Then he explained to us earnestly that the seeds on strawberries were on the outside. This is why I pack my luggage completely full on the way down: If I left room for a child there's a high probability one would "accidentally" arrive back home with me.
Point the Fifth: There is a tangible sense of hope in the atmosphere at Children's Haven. In spite of the odds against these kids overcoming their pasts (and some do not), you just feel good about their chances. The mission directors are clear in their aspirations--they expect lives to be divinely changed and that the "graduates" of CHI will be productive citizens, leaders in their homes and jobs and faith communities. And because they believe this with confidence, so do the kids and so do we.
Point the Final: Everyone serves in her own way. For this trip we had people who contributed financially, people who worked on the administrative end to get the logistics in place, people who prayed for us, and one woman who sewed a dozen neck coolers. But because I was one of the group that was actually on-ground and painting, I take the kudos for all those behind-the-scene folks, and that's not fair because I am no kind of Special Wonderful.
But thank you for thinking I am.