By Gaby Vargas
Pablo, who is in 5th grade, asked his school for permission to take two exams in advance because he would be traveling with us to New York City for four days.
“Gordo, if you want I can help you study”, I offered enthusiastically while savoring in advance those days together with my husband, children, in-laws and four grandchildren.
“No, thank you Gaby, you flunked 5th grade”. Yikes! I was in shock.
“Escuincle soperutano”… it should be noted that even though I get along very well with everybody, this grandson and I have a very special relationship. We love each other, although it may seem otherwise. He made that comment because he knew I would immediately complain, just as I did, and I would chase him around the living room to tickle-torture him, which I also did.
We travelled together to Manhattan because I was going to receive an award from Pro Mujer, an organization that in the last 20 years has given millions of dollars to support women in Latin America. The event was a benefit dinner organized to raise funds and give three awards, so we reserved a table for my whole family.
During the ceremony, after the speeches, a Nicaraguan woman, a Pro Mujer client, took the stand. She told us the story of her life and narrated how, thanks to this organization, she was able to support her family and recognize herself as a capable and valuable woman. With their help, she earned respect and recognition from people who worked in her town’s local market, who had previously underestimated her. All of this happened while she was coping with cancer and raising three children as a single mother. Before this evening, she had never been in a plane, let alone dreamed of visiting New York.
My four grandchildren, mesmerized, didn’t blink as they listened to her story. They were facing for the first time the reality of struggle and human pain narrated first hand. They realized that difficult experiences can be transformed into something worthy.
At the end of this moving experience, the auctioneer asked all of the attendants to use their cell phones to make donations through a phone number that appeared on the main screen.
That morning my husband and I had given our grandchildren some money for their birthday, which would be happening in the next days.
Surprising all of us, Toño, my oldest grandson one who is only 12 years old, immediately asked his mom for her cell phone to donate half of the money he had received. The other two followed and, with some reluctance, my fourth grandson did the same.
To view on the main screen the names of Toño, Pablo, Nicolas y Emi, along with the “de Mexico” and their very modest amounts donated, was a great source of pride for their grandparents and parents. At the end of the event, the four kids asked me to take them to say hello to the Nicaraguan woman and shake hands with their new heroine. In their eyes, I could see that they were opened to a new awareness towards the responsibility that we all have to help those who are less fortunate in life.
We walked back to the hotel, with a great sensation and that good feeling and spirit that you get when you help somebody else. The children didn’t talk about anything but the courage of this woman.
I fell asleep with a smile on my face, with the certainty that they will never forget that experience, and with the hope that I taught Pablo the lesson that, well… even though you flunked 5th grade, you can get an award.
Mexico, July 8th, 2013.