14 May 2013

Ah, Grasshopper...

I work in the Railroad Industry. For forty years I have lived close to the rails. The sound of the trains do not bother me. For me a train is like a spaceship both when you ride it, and when you watch it, or just listen to it go by. Sometimes it takes you places and sometimes it brings visitors from "outer space" and by that I mean from another region.  At times these visitors take the form of Guatemalans who traverse our bit of universe in search of a new life in a better place. They never disturb me or threaten me in any way. They merely put their curled fingers to their mouths in a gesture of asking for food. I know that they are from the Guatemalan region by the way they dress and speak and by the roughness of their hands which are gnarled and calloused by hard manual labor and often scratched and bruised from clinging to the rough steel of the railroad cars. I always keep some coins handy whenever I go out and give them enough to buy a liter of water and some tortillas. That will at least suffice for the time being. I can do no more than that except to commend them to God's mercy. This they accept gracefully and say with sincerity to all givers of food, clothing, money, or water "Gracias padre" (to men) or "Gracias madre" (to women).

I ask myself why I do it. Is it right or wrong? I don't know but I feel compelled by faith toward kindness to strangers. There is a line in the Bible that says, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2) . In the Old Testament it says "And you are to show kindness to those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt" (Deuteronomy 10:19). I happen to be a foreigner in Mexico myself and many people here have shown great kindness towards me...far more than I can ever repay.

The other day I was on my way home from work and I was hot and tired. The afternoon sun was blazing white and everything in view looked dusty and wilted. There is a railroad crossing near where I live and the traffic was stopped waiting for a long train to pass. I spotted a poor Guatemalan making his way down the line asking for help. He wasn't having much luck. The guy looked really tired. I pressed a few coins into his outstretched gnarly hand and then he disappeared for a moment. He suddenly popped up again with a little gift for me. It was a grasshopper that he had fashioned from the tall grass that grew by the side of the road. He gave me the little grasshopper and looked into my eyes and with great solemnity he said, "Gracias padre, que Dios te bendiga" (Gracias father, may God bless you.) For a second we were connected, he and I, by a knowledge of something greater than ourselves. Just then the traffic started moving again and as I pulled away I glanced in my rear view mirror but he was already gone...and I wondered. Could it be that he was an Angel?


Brenda Maas said...

Give and it will be give to you.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer......

I think you are all the richer for that encounter.

Have a good evening.

I'm the Mami said...

What a sweet encounter. We happen to have a corner near our home that always has Guatemalans en route to the states asking for money to help with the rest of their trip. A good 40% are parents/caretakers of young children, it always breaks my heart. At the same time, I think of all the people I knew in the States that left their children with grandmothers, uncles, aunts so they could work in the states and send money home. One such couple hadnt seen their children in 11 years.

For that reason, as dangerous as the trip may be for those families, I try and give the kiddos (prepackaged and sealed) food or juice boxes I keep in the car for that reason. Their sweet faces, pull at my heart. I cant say for sure that they are with their parents, I can only assume so much.

Thanks for this story. An angel, indeed! Sometimes we are the ones in need.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.