Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Power of Stories...

Buenos Aires is both familiar and foreign to us. There are some things that seem "universal":
1. Whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere, the TV remote still gets lost in the couch!
2. People appreciate a sincere smile or a door held open (particularly older ladies at the supermarket, young mothers on the subway, or older people trying to get in a restaurant.)
3. Meals are a good way to become more involved in people's lives.
4. Prayer is powerful
5. Hospitality is valued and loved throughout the world.
6. Lo siento/Perdón/Me culpa can cover a multitude of situations!
7. when in doubt, offer a smile. (Except to scary looking people on the subway, or people of the opposite sex who might interpret it the wrong way, or people handing you thousands of fliers as you walk down the street... On second thought, only smile towards people you know, older adults, or young children!) =)

Today, as I was riding the subway, I began to think about the power of people's stories. Buenos Aires is a sea of faces; you encounter thousands of people while walking down the street, riding in the subway, catching a colectivo, or heading towards our class or house. Each one has a story. They are loved by someone, have been hurt by someone, have deep secrets that no one knows, have a history and background.

Por ejemplo... (For example/instance):
- A young boy hands us a handwritten note in the subway, asking for money. The handwriting is an adult's, but the boy looks poorer. What's his story (his real story, not the one on the paper)? Why is this kid working at 10:30 at night?
- A young businessman takes multiple phone calls on his way to work. His shirt is pressed, his nails are clean, and his expression is haggard as he talks with each disembodied voice.
- An older man stares forlornly out of the window, watching the world pass him by. Where is he going? Is he on his way home, headed to his favorite confitería, riding the subway to pass the time because he is lonely?
- A young mother holds the hands of three small children, keeping them moving forward. She is beautiful, but looks very tired and drawn. What does she need? What would she give for someone who cares, who can understand her situation or help with a few moments of peace?
- A man sleeps on two old mattresses by the subway entrance in Primera Junta. I've never seen him beg; I've never seen him talk. In fact, I've only seen him move once. Some days he is there; others, it is just an empty mattress and a blanket. One day he slept while a pigeon sat on his mattress watching him sleep. How did he get here? Who does he have?

Who are these people? In a sea of a million faces, we can simply lump them together as la gente ("the people.") Los porteños, los argentinos, los chicos, muchas personas... Yet each has a name, a life, a story... We might not know their name, but their Father in heaven does. They might just be "that guy" to us, but to the Father they are a beloved son or daughter. They are a prodigal, needing to realize true love. Or maybe they are a returned child who recognized their need for truth, life, and the way. They might be filled with joy or experiencing horrendous pain. We simply don't know, but their Father does.

The one who began the story knows each character intimately. May we seek to influence the stories in our lives, whether we are in Argentina, the United States, or anywhere else around the world...

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