I felt like I was falling, falling fast about to hit a part of reality I had never touched on before. Where had this place been? How long had they been living like this? I glared so hard my eyeballs hurt, but not from the bright colors because there weren't many. The only colors I saw were those of the tightly woven rug laid sloppily in front of the door less entrance.
--- Copyright © 2001 Maria Gold
Dark clay was crusted over from a few days of basking in the sun so I was unable to make out the writing. What kept this home standing I could not tell you. The pieces of cloth lay hanging off the side of the hut however in a completely non-lazy fashion. The wooden slabs holding up their dignified home were painted, I'm guessing by children, with splashes of greens, reds, and pinks.
On the boards were the names of the artists who had done the painting. Those children signed their names with dignity. To them they had the best life. A lollipop and a ball for playing soccer was all they thought they needed.
The soccer ball rolled into my feet as I bent down I saw my white sneakers, perfectly laced without a speck of dirt on them. I felt like I had been falling this whole time and had just hit reality. The young boy came running up to me. My eyes trailed through the brown dirt leading from my perfectly white sneakers to the boy's bare feet. You could see that they were dry with crusted dirt covering his whole bottom foot.
His small toes looked as if they had not seen cold water in a few days all cracked and cut up. As I handed him the soccer ball he thanked me with a "Gracias" and a crooked smile. As he scurried back over to his friends his small feet left tiny footprints in the loose and dry dirt.
I thought to myself, this 8-year-old boy has seen more pain, more starvation, he has fallen so much farther than me in life. His small, bare, cracked feet have trailed so much farther than I ever will and at such a young age. Life for that 8-year-old boy has taken a path that I will never experience.
My feet will never crust up and become cracked from no clean water and there will never be doorless entrance to my home. That young boy has endured so much poverty but still has the thought of a smile in his mind. I learned more in that hour spent in that run-down Mexican town than I have learned in my whole life.
As I walked out of the town, headed for our car, I tried to place my footprints of my new sneakers into that of the boy's encrusted ones in the hard dirt. Just before I stepped on the boy's small footprint I realized that I couldn't.
I couldn't trace on a path of someone that has experienced more. I would place my own footprint beside his small one. I was not on the boy's path, I was on my own. My footprint next to his just showed that I had grown from watching him and would continue to grow.
If someday I return, maybe I will have grown up to be the kind of person the boy resembles; unselfish, un-needy and completely content with what life has given him. Maybe someday my own footprint will fit perfectly into his.