This last summer I had the privilege to serve in the impoverished areas of the Dominican Republic with many of my fellow youth group members. We touched them with the material gifts and services we brought, but I’m not sure they knew just how greatly their actions touched our hearts. I was blessed to be able to speak directly to many children in Spanish and through those conversations we were able to become friends in a short amount of time. There were three girls who snuck right through any walls I had up and instantly became friends that I will never forget. They live in small shacks where they must go to a nearby project in order to receive necessities like shoes, food, and hygiene products.
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When I thought about their terrible living conditions I wanted to give them material commodities, but I found that the only thing that really mattered to them was to be remembered. I will always remember them and tell of our time together.
It was then that I met Alany, who is 12 years old. She loved my hair and the fact I could speak Spanish to help her complete the project. She pulled me around to things she wanted to show me and to people she wanted me to meet and was a blessing to be with throughout the day. She spoke a little English and I could speak some Spanish, so we taught each other new words in both languages. We were having fun with our speaking game, but then she had to leave with Yafreisy to go back to the project. I wasn’t sure if I would see her again.
But, the next day we were passing out shoes and I heard a girl outside the window calling to me; it was Alany. I could hear the screams of the mob outside and the adults advised me to stay away from the window, but my good judgment disappeared as I peaked through the blinds. Through all the chaos I saw Alany’s glowing face and I felt her hand come through the bars on the window. As I held her hand and told her “Te amo y yo siempre te recordare” (I love you and I will always remember you) I felt her place a small chain in the palm of my hand.
Her face disappeared and the chaos entered back into my vision until I was torn away from the window. I looked to my palm and saw the beautiful necklace that lay in my hands. I ran towards the window hoping she would still be there for me to give her something just as beautiful in return, but my Dominican friends held me back, knowing the danger I would be putting myself in. I sat in the corner with the tears streaming down my face and thought about why she would give me something so valuable. I could only answer my questions by replaying the last thing she said to me. “Te amo” (I love you).
I worry about saving money for college, new shoes, and new clothes etc., so I feel a great burden for me to just carelessly give away my things and my money because I feel like it’s valuable. These girls don’t have a lot and they need to save money for necessities, yet without even thinking they gave me expensive gifts with complete joy. I am a rich person to them and they taught me an important lesson that I have brought back to the United States with me.
Nothing monetary could ever be worth as much as a true friend.
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