This is the story of a small boy in Central America. I heard it through others but I believe it to be true.
The boy lives with his grandparents. He is 10 years old. He should be in school but a sickness has shut the school down, so each day he goes with his grandfather into the jungle to work. I do not know what they do but I am sure the job is hard, hot and dirty.
Most of the money the boy earns goes to his family, but his grandfather allows him to keep a small amount. He is saving it. He has a plan, one that makes his family very proud.
The little boy wants to buy a burrito, a baby burro. Burritos are cheaper than full-grown burros. He will raise up the burrito until it is strong and then sell it for a profit. With this money, he will buy two more burritos and start again. On and on until his family has the money they need.
The boy may be small but he is a creator, an entrepreneur. All the markers are there—vision, purpose, hustle. I would like to meet him, to shake his hand, but that is not possible. His life is far too far removed from my own.
There is something I can do, though. In a time of anger, a time of resentment and hostility when it seems there are only binaries, I can remember that this, my nation, is just one of many and I am only one person among billions. Across the world are those in need. Their need is sometimes so great that I have none in comparison, but great, as well, are their hopes and their talent.
Thinking this way does only this: It makes me—us—better for the life we live here. It leads to humility and thankfulness. It makes us more welcoming of difference. And it causes us to be more forgiving because we never fully know the stories of others. That driver swerving between lanes might be rushing to his first day at a new job. The customer in the checkout line arguing over a few cents could lie awake at night afraid of losing his home.
And the young waitress who is slow with our order may ache in her breast for a 10-year-old son with dark eyes and a dreamer’s heart laboring in the jungles of Guatemala.