It happened seven years ago. An occurrence that changed my way of seeing the kids who ride the trains to the border. Personally, my path had never crossed a young kid far from home that I know of.
Always when pulling into a parking lot, there is a multitude of car cleaner and parking guys. Usually a smile and "No gracias" is my standard reply when being asked if any of these services are needed.
Somehow, this day, the young man had an "aura" that caused me to look up and see his eyes. Something there caught my heart and in a moment of hesitation I said, "Por favor, limpio mi coche" Please clean my car.
When coming out from shopping the young man hurried to get the packages and stored everything in the car.
Then we agreed on a nominal price for the car cleaning.
Surprising even myself, I heard myself say "Donde esta su familia?" Where is your family? Immediately he answered "El Salvador". Then the conversation continued with me asking how he had gotten to Celaya and he told me on the train. It had taken him almost two months to get to Celaya, which is 45 minutes south of San Miguel.
He jumped off the train there so he could earn some money and get some food. He didn't ask me for anything. I asked where he was going. He pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket that showed he was going to a town in Michigan. When I asked why there, he said his dad works at a factory there. If he could get there perhaps he could get a job as well.
My heart lurched at the distance this boy still had to travel. All I could think of was my five teenage grandchildren in Houston out of harm's way with a bed and pillow along with the comforts of home and family to sustain them.
Without thinking, I started pulling food out of the bags that would keep unrefrigerated. I made a "goody bag" as my youngest daughter used to call them. Then I gave him some money, not much, but enough for a week or two. As I handed it to him, there were tears in his eyes.
Again, without thinking, I grabbed him, (as I would my own grandchildren), gave him a Grammy hug and wished him good luck. It was instinctive. I hurriedly got in the car as I knew I would lose it and end up in tears as well. It was the darnest thing.
It's been seven years. Often I remember that 15 year old boy trying to act strong. He would be 22 now, the same age as my oldest granddaughter. He is still present in my mind's eye. With all my heart I hope he is with his father. That he is safe, has been able to send money home to his mother and brothers and sisters which was also his goal.
If only all the people and politicians who think the "illegals" are all the things they are not, could meet one person, such as this young man, hopefully they too would be compassionate in their realization of the fact they are human beings who only want to get to safety and their families.