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'.)
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?