Of all of the inspiring people I encountered in El Paso, the most touching relationship I made was with six-year-old Thiago. He got caught crossing the border into the United States and therefore was assigned to live with a foster family that works with the child detention center.
We spent about an hour with the kids from the center and the whole time Thiago had a wide-spread grin across his face to accompany his sparkling brown eyes. He always had something to say no matter the time of day: song time, snack time, or craft time. During craft time I was helping him decorate a box with stickers and sequins, gluing things on and sticking things together. Apparently, assistance is not something he accepts often.
“He must like you! He never lets anyone help him work,” the volunteers told me. “Thiago, you like her, you think she’s pretty!”
He just smiled even bigger and continued working.
Although the only Spanish I remember is from middle and high school language classes, we were still able to converse. We talked a lot about the alphabet and his cookies and milk, but eventually we began to play a game. He would say a word in Spanish and I would respond by telling him what it was in English. The words were simple like dog, window, mirror, star, cookie, and even after we went through a whole roll of them we would start over from the beginning. Each sequence made me smile.
Thiago taught me that even when you go through hard times in your life it is okay to continue living in the present as a being who has the ability to encompass happiness and share it as well, even if the person you share it with is someone you just met.
He helps me put a name to one of the many faces of immigration who are categorized as aliens, drug dealers, and terrorists. In reality the majority of them are normal humans who deserve to lead a better way of life.
Host Site: El Paso, TX – Columban
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