The Starbursts, Jolly Ranchers, and digital camera bounced around in my drawstring backpack as my friends Kathleen, Peggy, and I walked out of our dorm area. Night was beginning to fall, but there was no chance for us sleeping anytime soon. It was our second trip down to Casa San Salvador, so everything felt like home. In the mornings we would go to breakfast, which usually consisted of leftovers from last night’s dinner. Then, we led Vacation Bible School for the chicos and chicas, where we would sing songs, perform skits about bible stories, and create endless crafts. After, we would head to lunch and then participate in activities with the pequeños like basketball, futbol, and swimming.
Now, the sky was a dark indigo with a burst of bright light coming from the cage walls around a slab of concrete the size of a soccer field. Yes, this was the best time of the day. Crickets chirped and pequeños scurried around us in their thin pajamas waiting for the games to start. We continued down the path where I recognized a small boy leaping through an open area of grass. My sandals slapped the lumpy cobblestone as I ran up to him. “Josue!” I cried out as I lifted him into the air. Although it was dark, his little teeth shined brightly as a smile spread across his face.
Josue was a member of my Vacation Bible School group and the cutest thing to walk the planet. When I asked him why he had been running around the grass, his face immediately lit up and responded with one word: “Luciérnagas!” (Fireflies). Seeing how happy it made him, I knew what I had to do. For the next few hours, I abandoned my fear of bugs and ran around with him catching “luciérnagas.” He was so excited every time a new bug was placed in the container that he would shake and clap his hands. When it was time for him to go to bed, he gave me a quick hug and ran off into the dark Mexican night.
As the week went on, Josue and I became inseparable. I would look for him at VBS, and he would wait for me on the edge of the pool. I knew that I could get his attention by singing a Christina Aguilera song, and he knew that with one sad look I’d give him candy from my backpack. The boy had me wrapped around his little 6 year-old finger and certainly wasn’t going to let go. When it was time to say our goodbyes at the end of the week, I gave Josue a picture of us that my mom had printed out the day before. He looked at it, smiled, and handed it back to me. “No, this is for you,” he said. “So you can remember me.” After much convincing and reassuring that I had my own copy at home, Josue finally took the picture and placed it near his pillow.
The next day on our flight home to Minnesota I thought to myself, “How was I supposed to leave this little boy who had brought me so much joy? How would he be reassured that I would remember him?” I knew there was only one thing I could do. The day after I came back from Mexico, I decided to use some of the money I’d earned over the past summer and become Josue’s madrina. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’d tell you I’m pretty stingy when it comes to my own money, so it was a pretty big step for me. 360 dollars later, however, I can already tell you that it’s going to be worth it. Although Josue can’t read or write yet, I’ll still receive a picture he’s colored in place of a letter (which I will proudly hang in my college dorm room this year!). I can’t wait to watch this little boy grow up and certainly can’t wait for another trip to Casa San Salvador.