Friday, December 18, 2009

i'll need my passport and bottled water

Do you remember when I wrote that I'm going to simplify my life and stop taking on so much? Well, I tried. For a whole week I really tried.

But then I went to the neighborhood Christmas party this past weekend and somewhere between my second and third glass of wine, I was talking with one of our neighbors who is a camera man in the Marines. He films documentaries of what life is like behind enemy lines and during his most recent tour, he was shot in the abdomen by a mercenary.

I'd like to blame it on the wine because when he told us he was shot by a mercenary, I gave him a puzzled look and asked, "Since when do mercenaries carry guns? I thought they carried Bibles!"

(Seems I had the word 'mercenary' mixed up with 'missionary'.)

(Big difference.)

Kind of like the time I was 12-years old and got the word "tentacles" mixed up with, oh never mind. But replace the "n" with "s" and "a" with "i." Suffice to say, the waiter and everyone at my table nearly choked when I announced that I would like the lasagna as opposed to calamari scampi because the thought of a plate filled to the brim with "replace incorrect word here" gave me the heebie jeebies.

You might imagine my terrible embarrassment when the 15-year old boy sitting next to me clued me in to my anatomical faux pas. Twenty seven years later and I still haven't fully recovered. Nor can I eat calamari.

One of our other neighbors overheard our conversation and joined the discussion. And once our other neighbor heard that the Marine was a camera man, he said, "If you take your camera with you and come with me some Saturday, thirty minutes from here you'll see something that will change your life."

Huh? I ask.

What would change your life only 30 minutes from here?

It turns out that just south of the Mexican border there are orphanages. A lot of them. And in those orphanages are children, many of whose parents have dropped them off so that they can go work in the nearby flower fields for several days at a time. There are also scores of small children whose parents have died or abandoned them and they are found - wandering around alone and afraid - living off of trash from landfills.

Last night, our neighbors (who it turns out are bona fide missionaries, not to be confused with mercenaries) came over and talked to us for three hours about what they are doing to help. They've started a nonprofit organization. They've secured warehouse space. They've recruited volunteers. They applied for and received tax-exempt status. And this year alone, they have shipped across the border more than 1,000,000 pounds of food and supplies to people that are in desperate need.

Living so close to Mexico, I've heard about the plight of poverty just south of the border. I've even seen a little of it. But what is one suppose to do? I haven't been to Mexico in several years because there has been so much corruption and kidnappings and crime, I haven't dare crossed the border. Besides, I don't speak Spanish and I'm sure there are other people that are helping. Other people who aren't nearly as busy as me and know the difference between mercenaries and missionaries.

But. Then. You hear a few stories and you look at a few pictures and you hear about the dire need and suddenly, you can't look away.

(At least I can't.)

I can't stop thinking about the family that drove down from the United States to an orphanage an hour south of Tijuana. Within that family was an 8-year old boy who didn't speak a word of Spanish and once they arrived, he quickly befriended an 8-year old orphan who didn't speak a word of English.

But that language barrier didn't stop these two little boys from spending an entire day bonding like only eight-year-old boys can do. At one point, the boy asked why his friend didn't have any shoes? It seems the orphan had never owned a pair of shoes. So the boy asked his father if he could give his friend his brand new pair of Vans, which had been something that he had purchased himself, with his own allowance, the day before. His father said that he could give away his shoes if he wanted, but he shouldn't expect to get a new pair when they drove back across the border. Without hesitation, he sat down on the ground and removed his coveted Vans while saying, "That's OK Dad. He needs these a lot more than I do."

All this to say, I'm debating going to Mexico tomorrow. I'm debating taking my camera and driving two hours south of the border with my neighbors and several other volunteers who are delivering food and supplies to 4,000 needy people. I'm debating helping to spread the word about this organization and what they are attempting to accomplish.

Or, I might stick around here and finish up my Christmas shopping. Charlie tells me that he really wants an air hockey table and some new pickups for his electric guitar.

I don't know.

(Tapping fingers. Tapping fingers.)


What do you think more embodies the Spirit of Christmas?


  1. GO!!! It'll be something you're doing because YOU want to do it, not because you feel obligated to. Order Charlie's gift online right now and mark those off of your list :) And then share pics with us!

  2. Wow! If my safety was pretty much guaranteed and I lived that close to the border, I think I would go. Although, I'd probably end up wanting to bring several kids home to adopt!

  3. You're going to bring home an orphan. You should go.
    I love your blog.
    Stacey McCastlain

  4. Lovely blog post - I enjoyed reading it.
    Wow - really puts things into perspective, doesn't it? There are so many going without - it's so sad.

  5. I think you're going to Mexico. And I think it WILL change you.

    And I think it WILL change us, your blog readers. And I cannot wait to hear the stories behind the pictures I know are coming.

  6. Definitely go! I wish I had that opportunity. To go into the thick of things and see the faces of the hungry children you're helping must feel so amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. Everyone has their weak spot. Some people will do anything for animals or the environment. My weak spot is underprivileged children. I wish I had the resources to go out and give hands on help like that. Instead my husband and I have decided to start fostering children.

    I hope you go and use your blog to bring awareness to these children.

  7. Sometimes I do something simply out of obligation. My heart is completely in the wrong place and I pout or complain about it once the ball is rolling. But God manages to bless my socks off once things are finished and I look back in awe at His willingness to use me. ME! Someone who screws up royally on a daily basis at work, at home, and in "His Name"!

    Go. Even if you don't want to. Even if you have more important things to do. Even if it's not convenient or budgeted in the finances or your time. God will still use you and He will still bless the socks off your whole family. And all of us readers that He's trying to reach for one reason or another.

  8. I'm looking forward to reading your post about Mexico on Monday, maybe Tuesday at the latest. As an added incentive, you won't educating only Americans but also people all over the world and I think we need to have it shocked into us sometimes.

  9. So touching at the end but I had to stop laughing my ass off first, I can only imagine your story at the resteraunt will live on forever! I must say after living in Guatemala for 8 months trying to get my daughter out of there is quite an eye opener, this year for christmas gifts to grandparents etc I purchased foods baskets that a friend was going down to deliver. That is what christmas is about. We would lvoe to adopt again and I even looked into mexico but they dont' have a very good system in place at all. Hoping to find someone in the states and not have to go thru an agency with crazy fee's. Good luck on decided it will be no doubt amazing if you go.

  10. Hola! Jen. Jen. Jen. Your intense desire to reach out and help those in need is admirable and enviable. Just don't let "your frosting" be spread too thin.

    You Rock!


  11. As a teenager, I spent an afternoon at an orphanage outside Tijuana. It was a definite eye-opener for a 15 year old, especially being from Seattle and not living close to poverty on that scale (Canada doesn't exactly have orphanages like that).

    Now, as a mom, my family makes up boxes each year for Operation Christmas Child. This was the first year my daughter (now in kindergarten) really got into it, picking out items for a girl her age and knowing that they were going to be given to someone far away who wasn't going to have a tree and presents at Christmas. She was very cute about it (though I had to veto some items for size/practicality issues), and I know it was a good learning moment for her.

  12. Oh, I really hope you go. What a life-altering experience.

    That story of the 8 year old giving his shoes away made me cry. I hold on to stories like that when people complain about how selfish children are, when really, they just need a chance to show us how it's done.

  13. You always make me cry. I hope you go and take lots of pictures. You never know what God has in store for you or your future.

  14. GO! I tell you want, if you go this time, I will drive down there and go with you some time next year. I am not kidding. I would LOVE to do that.

    I won't tell Greg. It will be our secret, because he would completely FREAK OUT.

    But I totally think you should do it!

  15. GO you have the opportunity to give a wonderous gift, take it.

    Giving is much better than receiving.

  16. go go go go go
    Christmas Schmistmas. Just GO. nothing gets to me like orphans, NOTHING. I spent a week helping out at an orphanage in Mexico and the stories haunt me and one day I have to go back. As a teenager I watched a video from Compassion International about orphans in Romania who had no human contact at all and didn't know how to interact with people, were afraid of touch, acted like it hurt them and I bawled my poor 18 yr old eyes out. Please go.

  17. "All this to say, I'm debating going to Mexico tomorrow. I'm debating taking my camera and driving two hours south of the border with my neighbors and several other volunteers who are delivering food and supplies to 4,000 needy people. I'm debating helping to spread the word about this organization and what they are attempting to accomplish.

    Or, I might stick around here and finish up my Christmas shopping. Charlie tells me that he really wants an air hockey table and some new pickups for his electric guitar."

    You really have to use more than 1/4 second of brain processing time to figure this out??? :O

    (I also had the problem of tentacles when I was first learning about, uh, tentacles! :D

    ~Cindy! :)

  18. I am sure it will be rewarding. I remember my first Thanksgiving without my family in SC. I went to a home for children and helped with their Thanksgiving. Their parents were all incarcareted. It helped me so much with what I believe about myself and life.

  19. I just KNEW it wouldn't last! A week goes by "simplifying" a few good nights sleep maybe and then you're bored...on to the next mission....HA!

    Well, hope you have a safe trip...and keep your money in your shoe! Looking forward to your experience...