We are constantly reminded that the calendar is steadily progressing forward and our time here is almost complete. We are already dreading those very hard goodbyes to our new family. But for me, the hardest goodbye has already been said. My heart is broken for Reyes, who left the school a few weeks ago in an attempt to reach the United States illegally. Thankfully, the deadly trip was delayed for now but for Reyes it meant leaving El Sembrador behind.
When I came to El Sembrador I was so naive. But now it's so clear. The idea that U.S. is the answer to all life's problems is so ingrained in this culture that it's impossible for these kids to see any other way. If the American dream is to own a home, then the Honduran dream is to cross the border. At first, I thought the allure was money, status and jobs. But I have seen that it is so much more than that. For Reyes it is not just his dream, it is his only path and he can see no other. Reyes has had a good life here, relatively speaking. He's had food to eat, a grandmother to care for him, an education and a nice home. It's not that he doesn't appreciate these things, his heart is just too broken to stay and make a life in Honduras. Reyes never met his father. His mother left for the States before his first birthday in an attempt to provide for her family. Reyes is one of the lucky ones. His mother still calls him every week and the money she sends home is steady and consistently provides for him and his grandmother. He is lucky in that he knows his mother, at least as much as he can from 3000 miles away. He knows that she works 20 hours a day and shares a home with 10 other people including his brother. He knows that she has lived a hard life and that there's no picket fence and two-car garage. Now, at 16, Reyes doesn't see the U.S. as his meal ticket. He just longs for his mother to hold him. His hope doesn't lie in his future, but his past. He is desperate to reclaim the family he's lost and be reunited with a childhood he never had.
I am afraid for Reyes....not just for the dangerous journey that lies ahead...not for the corrupt police, ruthless coyotes, drug runners or murderers that he'll face. I am more afraid that he will make it to his family in New Jersey. Because Reyes is not a baby anymore and his mother is no longer that young woman who left him so many years ago. While I am certain that their reunion will be joyous, I fear that the comfort will be short-lived. In his mind, Reyes has made his mother into the super hero and selfless martyr that he has needed her to be all these years. She cannot possibly live up to the expectations of her little boy. I wonder if he will be destroyed to find her to be so ordinary. I wonder if she will play the parental role she denied herself only to find him resistant to her influence or indifferent to her own suffering heart. I wonder if his feelings of abandonment and her feelings of guilt can be resolved. I worry that the trip to the border is just the beginning of a long and painful journey that Reyes has resigned himself to. Most of all, I worry that there is something that I have left undone or something I have left unsaid that could have made his path a little less rocky. As I write this last sentence, I find that tears are steaming down my face. Did I tell him how much I love him? Did I tell him how much God loves him? Does he know that God used him to help bring my family to Honduras? Will he remember to lean on the Lord when his heart breaks? Have I prayed enough? By trying to convince him to stay, am I cruel to try to deny him his mother? Do I try to convince him for his own good or to appease my own broken heart that already misses him so much?
The issue of illegal immigration used to be so black and white to me, just numbers. Now, it is an issue so personal and so painful that I will never be able to just see the numbers in the newspaper. Now, I will see families, children, mothers....people that I know...people that I love. I don't know what the solution is or even where I stand on the issue...I only know that it's no longer black and white.
For now, I leave the unanswered questions and the political issues in God's hands and ask for his special protection for Reyes. I pray that He will bring our paths to cross again someday and I thank Him for this very special time when I was allowed to be just a little part of Reyes' life for just a little while.