March 25, 2000
Giving and Receiving
On Sunday, April 11, 1999, eight high school students and two adult leaders walked up to the door of a "house" on a hill. The home was composed of pieces of plywood barely nailed together to make the walls, roof, and door. It was not a very stable dwelling. The hill were this "house" stood was located in a small Mexican village just outside of Tijuana. These ten people, one of them being myself, knocked on the door of this home and met the family they would begin building a new house for. As the two young girls and their mother stepped from their humble dwelling all ten builders were unsure of all that lay ahead.
The family we were working for consisted of two young girls, Emilia and Inez. Their ages were seven and four, respectively. The mother of these two joyful girls was Cecilia. She did not work because she needed to stay home for her girls, so there was no one making money for this family. Mr. Medioso was not around while my friends and I were building the house. He was in jail, yet we were never told why. The family was in great need of help, and that is why I was there.
This trip was part of a youth mission trip organized by University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington. The students participating in this program were all from Seattle and surrounding areas. However, we were each raised in very different circumstances. The way in which we were raised had a large impact on the way we reacted to each situation that occurred throughout the week.
The week was filled with grueling work. We started from a section of unleveled land and ended with a two-room home with windows, stable walls, a locking door, and even curtains. We worked very hard because we only had six days to build the dwelling; we knew that the Medioso family was counting on us. This home was a source of hope for them. Hope that things would turn around and that they would be able to make it through these tough times.
As we worked, the two young girls tried to help in any way they could. However, it was often difficult for them to know where aid was needed because communication was a barrier. I was the only person in our group that knew any Spanish, three years of high school courses. This did not amount to much. The only English the girls knew was "candy." However, through the use of my limited Spanish vocabulary and gestures, we were able to work through most of the problems. Even though the family was not able to give much physical help, they gave in other ways.
At about 1:00 p.m. on the third day of work, Emilia and Inez walked down to my group carrying a tray of fresh cut fruit and a large bottle of water. This food and water was an immense showing of gratitude because food and water are prized possessions in their culture. The bottled water had to be bought from a truck that came down their street every other day and was very expensive. When they held out their items to each member of our group we reacted to this act of gratitude in our own way. These responses were a result of our individual upbringings and our knowledge of the culture in which we were in.
They first approached 17-year-old Jacob. As they held the elements out to him, he quickly grabbed a piece of papaya and ate it as fast as he could. The girls laughed. He then opened the water and took a large gulp from the bottle. Next, the girls went up to 16-year-old Amanda. Amanda looked at the contents of the girlís hands and told them she didnít want any. The girls looked disappointed and moved on to the next person. As they walked away, I heard Amanda tell Jacob that she did not accept the items because she was sure parasites were living in both the fruit and the water.
They went to each individual in our group and then approached me. As they looked up at me with their wide eyes, I contemplated what to do. I was not used to accepting things from people. However, in this situation I did not want to offend them by not receiving their gifts of gratitude for the work we were doing for them. After a moment of thinking, I picked up a slice of papaya and took a bite. It was the most delicious piece of fruit I had ever tasted. The smile on my face showed Emilia and Inez how much I enjoyed their present. After taking a sip of their water, I walked over to my bag and removed two pieces of candy. I gave each of the girls a piece of candy as an act of appreciation for their kindness.