On April 1, 2010, I started writing this blog. When I began, I wasn't sure what the overall theme of the blog would be, so I called it "random stories" about my experiences in El Salvador as a friend, mom, church lady, and delegation leader. Over the last four years, I have sometimes written prolifically and sometimes found it difficult to keep up with posting regularly. Sometimes the stories have been tearfully written, other times joyfully. Sometimes the photos have told the story. I write when an idea hits me, or if something is happening in El Salvador which calls for prayer or attention. Many readers have sent email messages to me asking follow-up questions, offering comments or sharing their own experiences. Some readers have commented on the complementary nature of Tim's El Salvador Blog and Linda's El Salvador Blog, sometimes joking about potential competition between us. We laugh about that a little bit. He still has many more readers than I do. (Perhaps it's time you share this blog with a friend?)
As I have been giving thought as to what I should write about today. I cannot stop thinking about an experience I had yesterday.
The young man was walking down the busy street, alone on the sidewalk. He walked unevenly. One leg moved stiffly, almost dragging behind him. His face showed a little wince with each step. He looked my way, and our eyes locked for a minute and we both probably had the same thought, "What are you doing here?" I kept driving, not 100% sure that this was the teen-ager who had been recently shot and survived.
He is a church kid, not as active right now as he was last summer. He goes to school and has to work pretty hard to get average grades. When I arrived at his house I asked his mom, "Was that your son walking over there by the gas station?" She said it was. She was clearly frustrated and a little embarrassed that she could not keep her son at home, that he said "had to" go to the cell phone store to get his phone fixed. After some conversation and hugs and handing over some food for supper, I got into my car and drove back toward the busy street. There he was, hanging out with other teens and younger kids on a front porch. I slowed down. I thought, "At least he could see that someone was watching out for him."
This did not happen in El Salvador. It could have. Kids in El Salvador like kids in my home city want to hang out with their friends. They want to sit on steps or curbs and test their independence. They wish for part-time jobs, to be on sports teams, to make music, to go out on dates. They do not wish for gangs to control their neighborhoods, to offer them drugs or money if they sell drugs. They dream of being stars or at least successful. They do not dream of being classified as "at risk." They do not deserve to be shot. They deserve to see that someone is watching out after them.
Many delegations return from El Salvador and create power point presentations, posters and newsletter articles which feature the beautiful faces of Salvadoran children. Today would be a good day to ask ourselves how we are walking with these children as they play, learn and grow in faith? How are we holding hands with their mothers when they are struggling because of poverty or violence in their neighborhoods? How are we letting kids know that they are important, that their dreams matter, that they are more than "at risk," that the community is not whole without them, and that they have far-away friends who love them and pray for them and are watching out for them?
Hmmm...time to go hug a kid.