Saturday morning, February 18th. A very chilly day by Tijuana standards. Adults and children alike wore coats, sweaters, ponchos. House mom Linda stood in the kitchen, stirring the Mexican hot chocolate that would be served as a special treat later in the morning.
A group of visitors from San Diego sat around the dining tables with the kids.
At one of the tables, the oldest girls and some of the visitors created heart-themed cards using an exquisite assortment of red and pink handmade papers. These teen girls, who can be both wonderfully kind, and (depending on the day!), woefully cruel, surprised the director of the orphanage by presenting her with a “Bouquet of Cards” later that morning. Wonderfully kind, indeed. The girls were, rightfully, so proud of themselves for their beautiful art and their beautiful generosity.
At another dining table, a visitor colored alongside the boys. Those little guys worked with such concentration. The normally rowdy boys found their still point as they thought carefully about which colors to use, how hard to press the crayons, whether to blend colors. And as the boys finished coloring a truck, a car, a boat—whatever they had selected—they asked for it to be taped to the wall of the dining room. “Of course!” was the answer. Then, after a while, the boys put away the crayons and brought out the Legos. And with their new visitor-friend, they created a whole new world.
At yet another dining table, visitors worked with the kindergarten and elementary-aged girls to create butterfly masks. “I need your help,” said Rosario to one visitor. “I don’t know how to tie the string to the mask,” said Diana to another visitor. One by one, the dining room of Vida Joven become filled with the most gorgeous butterflies you’ve ever seen.
SO, WHY VISIT THE CHILDREN OF VIDA JOVEN?
WHY? To experience the humility and joy of “simply” and profoundly bringing your self. We ask people not to bring “stuff” when they visit Vida Joven. Bring your self. It can be a challenge to come empty-handed. And it can be so liberating to come with an open heart.
WHY? To give a gift that really matters. These funny, wounded, beautiful, broken children don’t care what kind of evaluation you get at work. They don’t even care if you have a job. They don’t care if you can speak Spanish. They want to know that you are trustworthy. They want to know that you see their goodness. They will know these things when you attend to them with the fullness of your Presence. Will you give them this gift?
WHY? Because Mexican hot chocolate is really good. So is Jamaica water.
WHY? To learn how to speak the really important language in life: “I don’t know how to do this.” “I need your help.” Perhaps the beauty of those butterflies was born of their willingness to be vulnerable.
WHY? To “try it on” and “see if it fits.” Maybe a relationship with these children, with this orphanage, is what your heart has been waiting for. With every group of visitors, the children figuratively ask, “Will you help to raise us? Will you keep us off the streets? Will you keep us in school? Will you keep us safe? Will you make sure we’ve got food to eat? Will you be on our side for as long as we need you?” If your heart says, “No,” that’s O.K. We’re “simply” asking you to listen to your heart. But please visit and at least “try it on.” Listen. See what your heart says.