In Good Hands

The following is a short reflection I wrote recently on an extraordinary experience I became part of leading to a visit home for my grandmother’s funeral this month.  In this holiday season, I am called to gratitude for the gifts of life, family, and community, more so on the aftermath of a story worth living for.

In Good Hands

A reflection on family and community

“As it is, there are many parts, but one body. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” – 1 Corinthians 12: 20, 26

Victory Flags

“Hold your hands up high, if you will, for today we raise banners of victory in honor of a woman of God!”

The crowd felt warm around me, much like the breeze blowing all over under the morning sun. As soon as my father raised his right hand as if holding a flag, dozens of hands shot up to the blue skies and shouts of “¡Victoria!” defied the silence of the cemetery grounds. With his free hand he wiped off the tears pouring out of his eyes, as I felt my own raised hand shaking, my heart overcome with a powerful feeling of joy.

He stood there, in the center of the large crowd, flanked by his eight siblings. Only a few steps away stood his wife, my mother, engulfed as I was in a sea of emotion. As he lowered down his hand, it came to rest on the casket. Our eyes moved to that dark blue, wooden box, where the body of my grandmother waited to be lowered to its final resting place. After 93 years of trials and joys, ten children, and a score of grandsons and granddaughters, she had now moved on to the fullness of life. We all held each others’ hands as we prayed. On the quiet of my heart, I made a prayer of gratitude for her life, and for my father. And I said thanks for the gift of being here, now, by virtue of the goodness of the body of Christ.

Guardian Angels

Sympathies had been pouring in from many places, some actually quite unexpected. There had been so much to do at work all day that I had not had the time to really think through what was going on. My grandma had passed away, a year and a half since I had last seen her. I knew I was going to be there with my dad only through the phone line – like so many other times – for I really could not afford a ticket home. Everyone there had assured me that it was okay, that they understood… but looking deep into myself, I was not okay: I had feelings of homesickness speeding in and out of my mind faster than they had ever done in the last few months. In the end, though, I knew I was going to have to endure being away one last time. After all, like my parents said, I would be there for New Year’s. I needn’t worry. I had decided to call it an early night and go to bed when I got the call. Continue reading “In Good Hands”

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Let Us Create

It was my mother who first taught me how rhyme.

I was only 5, and I’d be sitting by her as she showed me how different words make similar sounds when you say them out loud, how I could put each of those words at the end of a line, then put the lines together, and the result was nothing short of music to the ears.  “Poetry is in your heart,” she’d say, and I’d look up to her, wondering where that was.

15 years later, she sat and listened closely, surrounded by some of her best friends and family on the day of her 50th birthday, as a now-young-man took up a guitar and sang the first song anyone had ever written for her.  “You are all that I am / See yourself here in my eyes, see yourself just one more time”.  A tribute to creation and the gift of life.

When Writing....

It was my father who taught me how to write.

Hundreds of books in a back office spoke of a former literate on his college years.  Studies in philosophy and letters, and a vocation for the teaching of ethics and faith gave me many a chance to listen to matter-of-fact treatises dictated to an absent pen.  There were only a few actual writings.  A letter during my college years, for example.  “You must know, son, what I’ve come to realize long ago: You are an extension of my own self.”

Not many years later, I’ve come to realize myself something that he may have also come to know: his treatises were not meant for an absent pen.  I’ve been the scribe all along.

The time is always now.

Let us create.

Why(,) do you love soccer?

A commentary on the upcoming US-UK World Cup game.

I always wonder why the US is virtually the only country in the world where soccer is not a major sport – not even in the top three.  Part of the price Puerto Ricans have paid for retaining our US citizenship is never embracing the love for soccer that’s all across the rest of Latin America.  Instead, we play basketball on our driveways and love Lebron James, send our few remaining good baseball players to the MLB, and either hate or pretend to understand the NFL, just like a real American sports fan.

And yet, nowadays I hear talk about the World Cup all around me – here, in Cardinals land! – and when I’m asked, I also respond with an ironical “I’m not a soccer fan, but I’m definitely a World Cup fan” kind of line.  I’ve watched all three games so far and felt that rush of adrenaline that I so often hear about from my Colombian relatives.  I’m sure many here have too, or will once the US game begins in about fifteen minutes.  Even if the chances of the US team winning this cup are very low, the hope is definitely in the hearts of many of Uncle Sam’s nephews.

So all I wonder is whether there is something about the game itself that’s what’s attractive?  Something about watching people kick a ball back and forth with no apparent outcome for most of a 90-minute-long couch-sitting?  Or instead, maybe, something about watching a story weaving itself all over a field, with ever-rising anticipation for that moment when a miracle will happen that can touch the lives of a million people all over the world?

Or is this something to dismiss as another once-in-an-election-cycle craze of us trying to be part of everything global?

Below is a link to the original blog post that inspired this. Read on and see what you think.

World Cup 2010: The Last Time You’ll Care About Soccer Till 2014?

p.s. Good luck challenging your former colonizers.  We haven’t had very much luck with you…

A Whole World Is Watching

May you live every day of your life.  – Jonathan Swift

What would you do if you suddenly found out that, for the whole day and night of tomorrow, every single person in the world will have their eyes fixed on you – all day?  How would you spend that day?

Two years ago, I asked this question to almost 500 people, as I prepared a spoken-word presentation for the annual “Mr Wash U” program and fundraiser at my university.  The answers were definitely something to talk about.  This morning, while cleaning up around my room, I came across the DVD from that event and decided to watch it one more time.  The words of all those people who responded two years ago came back and flooded my mind, shaking me up for a minute as if they were talking to me right now.  “What are you doing, Jesús,” they said, “what are you doing today?”

Today I post this clip from that presentation two years ago in hopes that those voices may speak to others as well.  What are you doing today?   What would you do tomorrow, if the world was watching?

May you live every day of your life.

My Childhood Dream Come True!

When I’m meeting friends or socializing at group events, I often ask people about what they, as children, wanted to be when they grew up.  It’s turned out to be a great question, because it leads to all sorts of follow-up conversations (“A teacher?  Did you play teacher with your stuffed animals?” or “A writer?  What kinds of books did your mom read you at night?”).  It is also a great question because I happen to have a pretty unique answer and a story to go with it.  Now it’s just gotten way, way better.

When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be an operator of one of those excavators at construction sites.  I lived in a rural, hilly neighborhood, and there was usually some new house being built or a road being repaired.  A few people nearby owned excavators and would charge for the service of digging up the foundations (or whatever kind of hole was needed).  In my five-years-old world, these machines were majestic.  I had my own little Tonka excavator (like this one) and I would dig out dirt on my yard and pour it on my play bowl.  It was great.

Every time I told that story to friends, they would inevitably tell me about those playground sandbox excavators that seem to be all over the place here.  I’ve never seen one, and I would always swear that if I ever got any close to one of them, I’d jump on it at once and get some excavating going on.  They are that cool.

Then a month ago my dad calls me and asks me if I remember what my childhood dream always was.  I told him right away: I wanted to have an excavator.  He chuckled on the phone and said, “Well, your dream’s come true, because I just bought one!”

Turns out my uncle had an old excavator he bought from a friend to do some renovations around his house, and was getting rid of it.  My dad will occasionally pay people to come dig holes around our house for whatever new thing he feels like building (usually large terrace walls, or an outdoor stairway for a studio he built on top of our garage, for example).  He heard that my uncle was selling and decided to buy the thing for himself.  Who would have thought!

I say that it’s his version of a midlife crisis.  Some people buy Corvettes.  My dad buys excavators.

And I’m so excited to use it whenever I go home!

Thanks, dad!

 

2011 UPDATE: I finally hopped on the excavator on my last trip home!  What a machine.  Here are some pictures of a long-awaited rendezvous of loved ones:

Luxury digger
Watch for it!
The Definition of Awesome

Your Day Could Well Be Average Today

“Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.”

Something unusual happened to me this morning, and I loved it. Instead of the normal rush of sleeping in and hurrying my way around before either of my rides left the house, I actually had an extra minute or so to spare today. Didn’t plan for it; it just so happened and, really, I was pleasantly surprised.

I looked around for things to do in that extra minute or so and chose to tear out the crossword page from the paper and give it a try, for about the third time in my life. It was exciting and really hard – a good old Sunday crossword after all. The thrill didn’t last very long, though: I was bored out of clues in five minutes or so and my co-worker was ready, so I just folded the page and took it with me for the ride.

I glanced at the page in the car and realized there was a horoscope on the flip side. A horoscope! Most unusual: hadn’t seen one in a long time either. I quickly went for the June twins… and was readily affronted with a stunning premonition: The quality of your day will be: Three stars – Average.

“Great.” I said cynically after reading it out to my co-worker. “What a way to start my day. I hate average!” Continue reading “Your Day Could Well Be Average Today”

Spring Forth a Melody

A handful of good friends around the table outside on our patio grounds, on a breezy, seventy-degree Spring night. A couple of guitars, a couple of musicians, and all the time to spare. Why, I can’t have asked for a better evening. It was a snapshot of community. It was an ode to free spirits all over the world.

As we enter the season of life replenished, I feel a call coming from somewhere within that invites me to slow down and appreciate the chances I’m presented with every day to choose to truly come alive. One of the things that make me come alive is music, and tonight I had a chance to choose music. My friend has been learning to play guitar for several months and decided to bring his to my workplace today. There was another guitar in the house, so I grabbed it and we sat outside for a spontaneous jam session. He’d play some, I’d play some. He learned some new stuff, and I did as well.

I honestly never expected it to go for a whole four hours. But that’s how good things happen, as if with a soul of their own. Every hour or so we’d join with a new guest at our table, so that by the end of the night we had a nice group of six or so students and co-workers simply hanging out. We each had our playlist of favorites; I threw in some Spanish songs to the mix, for the curious of heart. When the music faded, conversation ensued. And every now and then, a moment of silence: just enough to look up at the immensity of the sky and be quietly grateful for the gift of friendship and music in my life.

I’ll look forward to these moments over the next few months, as I begin to prepare for a most-likely departure from St. Louis and the Wash U community for the second time in just over a year (even as I write this I am unsure as to whether I’ll leave or stay for a bit, but for now it’s safest to expect a way out). These are the days and the evenings I’ll crave for: chances to come alive through music, dance, conversation, and every form of the gift of presence and the choice of love. It’s my resolution for the season… to make one too many memories, and to say thanks for all beauty and all life.