How a Star from "Paradise in Front of Me" is "Giving A Hope" to Kids in Cuyalí... And How You Can Help
For those of you who read Paradise in Front of Me, you know the true heroes of the book are the young people of the communities of Cuyalí and San Juan. They were an amazing group of kids, so I’m so excited to share with you today how one of the young men from our leadership groups is trying to make a difference today in Cuyalí. Please read the story of Noel Vindel, and I will provide you with some ways you can help make his plan a reality.
I'm listening to a podcast as I stroll around the kitchen, taking care of the mundane tasks that are nonetheless necessary to keep a household running. I'm listening to an interview with a gentleman, about my age, who has spent much of his life traveling. He currently lives in Mexico with his wife and two children, and in this moment he has caused me to pause what I'm doing and pay closer attention. The Canadian man is talking with an American, and he is sharing his disappointment with what Americans have become. Essentially, they are agreeing that Americans are more concerned with safety and fairness than anything else. "Americans in general are fearful of everything," the Canadian states. We are not, in his words, the home of the brave. Ouch. I keep listening because, well, I'm not totally disagreeing with him.
After successfully loading five pumpkins into the back of the car, Addie, my 7 year-old daughter, announces it's time for the corn maze. Cristina, my younger daughter Bridgette, and my father-in-law enter first. We wander, weave, backtrack, and turn around in what is increasingly becoming a difficult endeavor. It's getting so bad that I'm starting to wonder if any of the black corn on the dead cornstalks is still good for eating in a survival situation. "Dad!" Addie says, grabbing my arm. "Let's turn here." I look in the direction she is pointing. "That's a dead end, Addie," I say. I can see it from here." She shakes her head. "It might not be." At this point, the rest of our group is out of sight, so I tell Addie to move along. She's not happy about that, and her face let's me know I've let her down.
It's a cool, cloudy morning, and I am about 2 miles into what will be an 8 mile hike on the Apple Orchard Falls and North Creek River trails in the Jefferson National Forest of Virginia. The forest and hiking are therapeutic for me, and I am excited to be alone in the woods without a soul in sight. Maybe this form of quiet and isolation will allow me to relax, focus and connect with nature.
It was 1986, and I sat in a darkened theater and watched a movie that to this day remains my all-time favorite. I explain to people that “Hoosiers," starring Gene Hackman, is about so much more than basketball. It is a film with one scene after another that elevates “Hoosiers” to much more than a simple story about redemption and overcoming the odds. Filled with numerous memorable scenes, a favorite of mine isn’t one that immediately comes to mind for fans of the movie.
This is the second part of a two-part story that began last Friday. Thanks for reading.
As the ball continued its descent, it became increasingly obvious that it was destined for me. My dad, recognizing the situation, leaned away, giving me a clear path to catch the ball. My eyes widened and my knees bent as I prepared to make the catch. The ball struck my outstretched hands just as I expected. Now, all I had to do was cradle it into my chest and proudly display my souvenir. However, something went wrong.
I grew up playing a variety of sports. There were lessons, expressions, life analogies and more learned on the playing surface that continue to influence my life today. Throughout the course of a playing season, there are ups and downs. Whether the sport be individual or team, there are times when things click and periods when nothing seems to go your way. When an individual was experiencing a rough patch, my friends and I would remind the suffering player that they were simply in a rut. The struggles would not last the duration of the season, and we would remind him that soon he would be flourishing once again, the rut a distant memory.
I always found this philosophy liberating. Ruts are something we all experience in life, whether it’s in our careers, relationships, or other life endeavors. Sometimes, we don’t want to admit we are struggling. We put on a happy face, tell friends and foes that all is well, and refuse to face our challenges. This was the case for me, four years ago, when an act of fate changed my life.
I had never heard of David Foster Wallace until a week a ago. That's sad. Maybe you've heard of him or read one of his many essays or books. Listening to this commencement speech, I realized that there are so many amazing individuals out there whose work I've never had the pleasure to read about or hear. It saddens and disgusts me that the likes of Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian are covered incessantly by the media, while those with so much to offer this world are known to so few in comparison.
The other day, my five year-old daughter Bridgette was hard at work in the dining room. She was sitting on the floor drawing and coloring. When she is into a project, I know to leave her alone. After some time, she stood up, marched through the kitchen without a word, returned to the dining room with a tape dispenser and got back to work. She finished her latest project while I was upstairs in my office working. I didn’t go into the dining room until hours later, after Bridgette was asleep. I discovered this picture, taped to the wall. “Love Is Fun.”
Honduran child migrants leave home because of poverty and violence - The Washington Post
U.S. sends first planeload of moms, children back to Honduras - The Los Angeles Times
In morgue, clues to why people leave violence-plagued Honduras - CNN
The awful reason tens of thousands of children are seeking refuge in the U.S. - Vox Media
I’ve had several people ask me what I think about the recent immigration crisis in the United States. Since so many of the children fleeing are Hondurans, some believe I have insight into the issue. If you’ve read Paradise in Front of Me or any of the many articles in the media, you have some understanding of what impoverished Hondurans face. Imagine this . . .
It’s the middle of the night, and we should all be sleeping. Addie, my now 10 year-old daughter, stands facing me. She is holding her 8 year-old sister’s hand, and they are both scared. Cristina, my wife, is seated in a chair behind me, facing the kitchen. She is crying quietly, trying to hide her tears. “They could die,” she whispers. I turn my head away from my daughters, glancing at the back of Cristina’s head. “If they stay here, they will die.” I know the risks. As I look into the eyes of my beautiful children, I understand exactly what they face. My daughters could be robbed, beaten, raped, or killed. I know this, and it tears my soul to shreds at the thought. However, in a land where work is impossible to find and violence reigns, yes, I'm desperate.