A small hand was held in my right hand and another small hand was grasped in my left. My eyes switched back and forth between them as their smiles made me laugh. I stooped down a bit so the little arms could lock around my own and then I lifted them off the ground as we spun. I would lift them high to my shoulder level and then lower them down to the ground, alternating their rise and fall as we turned. This is how you make friends for life. This is how you turn a moment into forever. I will not forget them.
As drove a nail through a panel I felt a small tap at the back of my head. I continued to nail and I waited to see what might happen next. Again… tap. I smiled and took another nail from the bunch sticking out of my mouth and continued to attach the board. Finally, a third tap. I dropped the tools and let the nails fall from my lips as I turned. She was about 3 feet tall, with incredible dark hair and bright eyes that had no equal except for her smile. She reached up to me with both arms as she said, “te amo.”
I reached down and returned her hug. Suddenly I was surrounded by outstretched arms… both boys and girls. I lost count of how many heads that were cradled against my own. Self-consciousness fully fell to abandon as tears streamed from my eyes while I gave up all that I could offer… hugs and candy.
We were at the school in Labor de Falle, a village just beyond Cerro Alto, high above San Cristobal Guatemala. Our group took a break from home building today so that we could help serve lunches and play with the children. I am always overwhelmed with the stark contrasts of utter desolation and perfect beauty that exist in this land, and today was another of those moments. For a few minutes, my soul was transfigured to a higher place. Surely, we were in the presence of God.
Language is no barrier here. We sang together, we danced, and we hung from the rafters like monkeys. I stood in awe as I watched my son and his new friend Kevin laughing and playing with these impoverished children who shine the light of truth on my own malnourished soul. It is remarkable that I see the face of Jesus in their gaze. They have broken and mangled feet, open sores on their faces, parasites on their bodies, and even inside of their organs. They are unbelievably small for their age, and none of them have healthy teeth. They must live with constant pain.
And yet… I have never seen such a zest for life. I have never seen such a thankfulness for a hug or a piece of gum. I have never been so aware of the great expectation of my own life. When is the last time that I reached up to God and told Him that I love Him? When is the last time that I accepted freely what He has to offer, fully realizing that I have no way to repay Him? Why can’t I understand that I do not need to?
Christ told His disciples to simply come as a little child. Yes.
Today I get that.