After a week of travel, it was another hot and humid day in San Salvador, the capitol city of El Salvador. The sidewalks in Central Park were littered with vendors.
Each sat through the heat of the day, selling small items, hoping to make a good day’s wage. Five dollars for a full day of work is typical. It doesn’t matter the age or physical abilities, this is what is done to survive.
Deeply affected by seeing men who were physically disabled, begging at the bus stops, it seemed unconscionable to not do something more for those who had so little, whose opportunities in life were so limited. Armed with money raised from his daughters’ bracelet sales and other generous donations, Josh set out to give to others in circumstances similar to those he first saw.
It was not much, but represented a couple of days work for the vendors in Central Park.
“You must be careful there,” he had been warned. This was not a safe area. Already standing out, as he was clearly not a local, it would be doubly unsafe if it was known that he carried a significant amount of money. Eliciting the help of several local friends to provide protection and support, Josh set out looking for those he could help.
A giving heart is not confined to those who have much. Even in the most desperate of situations, with hardships of their own, hearts are often drawn to giving, to helping lift others. Four such men accompanied Josh as he went to Central Park with the intention of giving a little to many of the poorest in the city. Though not immune to their own financial struggles and difficulties in providing for their families, each of these men took the time away from their families and jobs, to give to those who had less.
They walked the streets and visited several parks in San Salvador. They would purchase some of the goods being sold and then tip the vendor a few day’s wages with the money that had been raised.
Some were hesitant.
“Who were these men walking towards them?” many likely wondered. Were they going to steal from them? Would they take their money or physically harm them?
The concern was legitimate as gangs in El Salvador often run the streets, demanding money in exchange for some peace from the gangs’ harassment. Many vendors purposely tried to avoid drawing attention from the seemingly intimidating group of men–ignoring the situation in hopes that it wouldn’t turn out badly for them.
With reassurances, the group of men gave the often surprised vendors a little lift to their day through the donations.
They met all kinds of people, older women and men, young mothers with children–all trying their best to provide for themselves and their loved ones..
Among all the faces seen and stories heard–one stood out.
His name is Cayetano.
It was not Cayetano’s physical limitations that captured the attention of the men. Though his physical limitations are significant–unable to walk, using handmade wood blocks to protect his hands as he maneuvers from place to place–it was the strength of spirit, depth of character and joy that Cayetano radiated which set him apart.
From their first moments together, Cayetano was friendly, with a smile on his face. He was not shy, afraid or ashamed like many first appeared to be.
His smile penetrates the heart, with a warmth that radiates through the pictures.
Though limited in his physical abilities, he has not let this stop him from progressing.
Initially given ten dollars, like all the others Josh encountered, Josh was unable to get him off his mind. Consequently, he returned and gave him ten more. In return, Cayetano recited the names of all of the 50 states. He had previously bought a map of the United States and memorized them all.
Cayetano chose not to be limited by his disadvantages. He chose joy despite his circumstance of living in one of the poorest countries in the world, with significant physical limitations–a situation many would consider hopeless. Yet, he has not given up. He has chosen and continues to thrive despite it all.
While he has little to give others in terms of material goods, he gives what he can, which is more profound and lasting–his strength of character and example of spirit. He gives hope. He gives joy and inspiration.
There is nothing so bad in life that you can’t also find and feel happiness. There are no obstacles so big that you can’t keep learning. There is no situation so desperate that you can’t give back to others.
Cayetano shows us this.