A Weekly Journal Chronicling My Life
As It Intersects With The Garbage Dump Community Near La Ceiba, Honduras

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chamu

A very diligent reader and fellow missionary had, after having read my very convoluted expose on Duke, asked that I do something similar on a weekly basis with other kids from the community. At the time I took it as a wonderful suggestion and with every intention to do so I completely forgot about it. That is until I thought to introduce you to Roger Alexander, more commonly known as Chamu pronounced (Sha-moo). I'm not promising a weekly get-to-know-you session as it seems my forgetfulness will eventually get the better of me and I will be branded a liar and a charlatan but from time to time do expect to meet some of the more obscure or curious members of our troupe. Which again brings us to Chamu and his story. I can't remember how we first encountered this kid and although I can usually give you the exact date of my first encounters with the other kids that pertain to us, it doesn't strike me as odd that I can't remember my first interaction with him. Chamu is perhaps the quietest and most reserved person that I've ever known, and for a 12 year-old boy that's no small feat. Thus, I imagine that he hovered on the fringes of our activities and daily conquests until one day either Josue or myself took notice and actually inquired as to his name. Even after learning who he was it was the rare occasion that we interacted with him - not for lack of trying mind you, when we meet someone new we make every effort to bring them into the group, to treat them like 'one of us', to make them feel like they belong. But Chamu is a different sort of cat, where most kids jumped at the chance to hang out with us, run errands with us in town or get a bite to eat, Chamu always politely and almost wordlessly declined. Thus we almost never saw him, he works you see...in plastics.

His mom runs a little racket with plastic recyclables, collecting them off the trucks that come into the community, sorting them, weighing them and then selling them to the recyclers. He's almost never in school and almost always helping his mom and brothers sort and weigh plastic bottles. We noticed though that when he did come around it was to play soccer, and man can he play; the kid is little, tiny, even by Honduran standards but he just dances with the ball around his opponents...he has to be one of my favorite kids to watch play.

Our relationship with Chamu began to grow back in September, if you remember we had a community-wide Futbol Tournament complete with trophies and medals. We billed the event as open to all kids between the ages of 9 and 14 in the hopes that it would attract some kids who normally don't interact with us and we allowed some of the older kids to form the whole rabble into four teams. Sergio was one of the captains and very wisely asked Chamu to play on his squad and as providence would have it, that team ended up winning the tournament with each member of the team winning a medal. From then on we began to see more of Chamu, very gradually he began to come around more, to greet us when he saw us, to actually speak, to respond verbally to our questions and to attend our weekly devotionals until one day he accepted an invitation to come to the church with us to help sort clothing for the community. That was a big step...it was just clothes sorting I know (with a little fried chicken in there too) but up until that time he had flatly refused - without even considering. This time he struggled and considered and I could tell he wanted to but was afraid to say yes...so I gave him the answer for him, I said "the answer is yes, go change and put on some sandals and I'll be back in 10 minutes".

That was just a few weeks ago, this past Tuesday was Chamu's birthday and we celebrated as we always do with a cake in the home of the birthday-boy. For us it's become a bit of a routine; we show up with cake, we light the candles, we pray for the kid, we sing, hand out cake to it seems like 10's of children that are just coming out of the woodwork, we hand over what's left to the responsible adult of the household and we slip away...this time it was different. We did the showing up, gathering the family and praying and singing thing just fine but when it came to time for Chamu to blow out the candles we ran into a hitch. We finished singing Happy Birthday and said "Blow Out the Candles!!!!" but Chamu had his head in his shirt and was sobbing, Josue had to lift him up a little so that he could be coaxed into blowing out the candles. We thought that with that the crying was over but as we were cutting the cake he started crying very softly again, what struck as so strange was that no one seemed to notice, they were too interested in the cake to even question why the person we were celebrating was inconsolable. We handed off the cake-cutting responsibilities to some aunt and as best we could in a room full of nosy children and loud aunts, tried to console him and assure him that we cared about him, that we would be there for him and that God loved him. It broke my heart, Josue was almost in tears himself - we left him there, we had to, we couldn't stay forever, that was hard to do - that takes faith in the love and providence of God.

I went back the next day and he was fine, kids are resilient and forgetful, we gathered a group together to play soccer and he played as well as ever. I'm not sure what else to relay other than to be in prayer for him; it strikes us that there is a lot of hurt and mistrust in this kid's life - pray that we can be instruments of love for him and that we go about it wisely. Blessings to you. Peace!
- mlk

1 comment:

Nancy Marshall said...

Thanks Matt! It's so interesting to learn about your life with these boys. I wonder what happens with the girls. Are they curious and want to play with you?
How did it get segregated or is that just the way it is in your neck of the woods? Or are there girls hanging our with you and I missed that.
Also I want to learn about Josue. He is clearly your disciple.
Te veo en Guate en tres dias!
Blessings
Nancy