It's Sunday afternoon and I've been curled up on my couch reading the newest book by Richard Paul Evans: The Walk. Jason is playing David Lanz on the piano and I'm content. I just read this paragraph in the book:
"I started writing in my diary because my mother told me to. After her death, I continued because to stop would be to break a chain that connected me to her. Then, gradually, even that changed. I didn't realize it at the time, but the reason I wrote was always changing. As I grew older, I wrote as proof of my existence. In each of us, there is something that, for better or worse, wants the world to know we existed..."
Those words stuck a chord in me and caused me to reflect. I started Grandpa Wednesday for the same reason: to show proof and evidence that once upon a time my Grandpa lived...that he existed...that he made the world around him a better place.
Without realizing it I probably started my blog for the same thing: to let someone know that I existed.
In thinking about this idea of existing I thought of a young girl I met once in Mexico, a girl who will probably only be remembered by a small number of people...a girl who will live her life and die, and not ever know that her life touched mine.
Somewhere north of Mexico City, at the top of a mountain, is a city called Potrerillos. In order to reach Potrerillos you have to traverse dirt roads for several hours...roads that in spots are nearly impassable. Once you've made the journey you find yourself in a village that is untouched by the modern world. There is no electricity, no running water, no grocery store just around the corner...nothing but fields of corn and humble surroundings.
Our purpose in going to Potrerillos was to help build water cisterns so that the villagers would have water during the dry months. I've talked before about my humanitarian trips...and I'm sure I'll talk about them again. I find my best self in these villages in Mexico and this trip was no exception.
One afternoon I took a break from building and sat down next to a girl who looked close to my age. I had noticed her the day before, sitting in the same spot, watching us work. I would make eye contact with her from time to time and I would smile. Each time she would look away. I hoped that by sitting next to her in the dirt she would see me as a friend, and not a stranger.
Our conversation was quiet at first. I would ask her a question and she would mumble an answer. I would ask another question and she would mumble another answer. After several minutes of this, she finally asked me a question. I answered her and that seemed to break the ice.
We talked for close to an hour.
"Have you always lived here?" I asked.
"Have you ever been down to the city?"
She had only left her village one time and that was to attend a wedding in the next village over the mountain.
"It took almost a day to walk there and I decided that I would prefer to stay home," she told me.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" I questioned.
"I did. But he left four years ago to find work. He never came home. I don't think he ever will. There is no one else here. I will probably never get married."
"Describe how you spend your day." I was curious.
"I make tortillas in the morning, and do the wash in the afternoon. I help my mom take care of my dad."
"Anything else?" I asked, and she looked at me with a puzzled look on her face, as if to say 'what else is there?'
"Do you read?"
"No," was her reply.
She asked about my life and I told her what I did for work, and what I did for fun. I don't think she could comprehend what I was telling her.
"Do you ever just want to leave? Find a new life to live? Do something different?" All of these were questions I asked her.
"No. Why would I want to leave? My parents are here...they need me. This is my life. This is what I know."
"Are you happy?" I asked.
And she nodded her head and said yes.
We sat in silence then and I internalized what she had said. I learned so much that afternoon...and my life has been blessed because of that conversation.
When we left the village that last day, I looked for my friend. I couldn't find her. As we drove away, I saw her sitting on the side of the mountain. I asked the driver to slow down and as he did I put my head out the window and waved goodbye. She waved in return and I knew I would never see her again.
I think about my friend often, and I wonder about her life, and I'm grateful that she exists somewhere in this world. Because of her I am a better person.