Now He Knows His Name
I have shared this story around the world, and each time I have the opportunity, I am blown away by how lucky we are to be able to do what we do, and how amazing it is to have people like you join us…In the summer of 2007, on one of our Hero Holiday trips to Dominican Republic, I found a little boy who has become a symbol of hope to thousands of people. This is his story.When I met him at the garbage dump where he was working, I was instantly in love with his huge smile and gentle eyes. He was a 12 year old Haitian orphan, left in the Dominican Republic from the age of 4, alone, malnourished, and without an identity. When I had asked him his name, he said that he couldn’t remember what his mother had called him. I couldn’t sleep for days after meeting him: I would close my eyes and see his eyes and wonder if he remembered his mom or felt that he had been ripped off in life. The students with me on the trip gave me the answer to the obvious question: “Why don’t we just give him a name?” Brilliant, I know!The next day we returned to his village with our students and a medical team to do a clinic. I was immediately scanning all the beautiful little faces looking up at me and searching for my special face. When I saw him, I jumped out of the truck and we ran toward each other. His laughter was infectious as I smothered him with kisses and love. He knew that I had ‘regalos’ (gifts in Spanish) for him that day, so he was even more excited to see me (let’s be honest!)We went to a quiet place where two other orphaned boys were and I brought out their gifts. Their eyes filled with excitement as I brought out shiny basketball jerseys, some rice and beans, and a brand new can of Pringles chips for each of them! They were so excited! They kept asking, “For me?” and I choked back the tears as I saw their eyes when I handed them their new clothes. I could tell that they had never owned anything so nice before and the whole moment seemed almost holy and surreal to me as we stood in this dirty alley and shared such an intimate experience. I pulled my little friend aside and I brought my translator to help me. I told him how much I loved him and how special he was. I told him that I thought for a long time about a name for him and I wanted to give him something special that would remind him all the time of how much he was loved. I had searched for a meaningful name and I had found the perfect name: David, because ‘David’ means to be loved and cherished. His eyes lit up and I asked him if he understood that. He nodded his head and as I kissed him through my tears, I saw a little tear in his eye. As I held him, I told him that from now on, whenever we saw him, we are going to call him David so he is reminded of how much he is loved.That was two years ago. Today, he still answers to the name David, and he still hugs me shyly as he sees me. Only now, through all the attention that we gave to his story, a missions agency helped him get adopted into a home, and he is safe, well fed, and full of life. David’s story is about more than sympathy or even empathy; it is about love – the highest human aspiration. Is not the goal of all to love and be loved? Love is patient and kind and keeps no record of wrongs and when I look at David, I see love. He is not living in the anger of the past and how much he feels ripped off with where life has left him. David is gentle and so willing to open up his heart to me.Each summer we are reminded of how great it is to share these experiences with such amazing people. In each country, on each Hero Holiday trip, the people that join us make me want to continue to forge ahead and be the voice for the ‘Davids’ of the world. Together, we are going to make a difference for the poor and the exploited. Somehow, I have to believe that in my heart. Every moment we have to make a difference has the possibility of leaving a resounding impact through to the generations to come. Our lives are an amazing gift and the best possible thing that we have to offer is our own willingness.In David’s village, there are 36 orphans. All of them are displaced people with no country of origin that will recognize them. They are enslaved by poverty, and some of them I have met were physically enslaved and exploited before they got there. They have escaped violence and abuse, and are currently still very vulnerable and needy. They need education and they need people like all of us to see their cause as our own and to see them as our own children. We succeed when they succeed.Who would have ever thought I could find something so beautiful and valuable in a garbage dump?Hero Holiday is currently happening in both Mexico and Dominican Republic, building homes, schools and community structures to help improve their quality of life and give them hope for the days ahead. This is possible because of all of the amazing people that join us, that help to sponsor our building projects, and help to get us into High Schools to get the word out on what we do. People like you. Thanks!