“Those guys, over there. Those are what we are trying to keep these kids from becoming.”
It wasn’t exactly clear to us what Alvaro was talking about at first. He parked the van across the street from the group of men lounging on the sidewalk. They had snacks in their hands and a bottle sitting at one of the men’s feet. James asked what they were doing.
“Sitting around, drinking.” Doing the very thing that had brought on the demise of more than one of Alvaro’s friends, and that had almost ruined his father. These men had lost hope in their circumstances long ago, probably around their teenaged years, and turned to the bottle to drown out their hopelessness. They had at one point been children much like the little ones that Alvaro and his family minister to now. They had given up on school, and traded in their dreams of a better life for alcohol.
James made the first move, and I followed soon after. Adjusting the settings on our cameras, we started snapping shots of the men through the windows of Alvaro’s van. But the heavy tint on the glass used to keep the heat of Nicaragua outside made it difficult to get ‘good’ shots. James snapped a couple more and then asked Alvaro if we could get out.
“Yeah. They’ll probably even pose for you, actually.” Alvaro shut the van off, and all three of us crossed the street, James and I with cameras ready. Alvaro asked the men if we could take their picture, and the men eagerly obliged. Some of them held up peace signs or gave us a cheesy grin. Some assumed tough, serious poses. None of them minded having their photo taken at all.
One of them came up to me and started saying something in Spanish, gesturing a roof over his head and pointing across the street. I heard something about “Mi casa,” but I didn’t understand anything else. I tried to motion for him to lead the way, but he kept mumbling and then finally walked away. I suddenly wished I had been more diligent about my Spanish in high school.
I watched as the man started talking to Alvaro, and then both of them approached me again. “He wants you to come take a picture of his daughter,” Alvaro said. I was more than happy to.
The man excitedly led the way to his house, just a few yards from where the men had been sitting, and ducked inside. He came out with a young girl in his arms, and two more little ones trailing behind him. His face beamed with pride as we greeted his kids. After I took the pictures of his daughter, he grabbed his son and held him up high in the air, despite the boy’s vehement protests. The man’s excited grin got wider with each snap of my shutter.
We thanked him and his friends and piled back into Alvaro’s van. The next day, I went with Alvaro to his puppet ministry. And as I looked around at all of the kids that had come to see the puppets, I couldn’t help but think about that man and his kids.
What would become of them? Were his children destined to the same fate he had chosen for himself? Was he eternally bound to that fate?
Or was there someone who would reach out to them? To show them that there was hope despite their circumstances? Someone had been there for Alvaro. Someone had given Alvaro’s family the hope that would eventually break his father from his alcohol addiction, and prevent Alvaro from ever having one.
I hoped and I prayed as I interacted with these kids that someone would be there for them as well.