My role at the rescue house is to be a mentor to these street kids. To teach them, guide them, discipline them, encourage them and answer any questions about life that they may have. Sound familiar? Well, yes, it’s the role of a parent, isn’t it.
How much of that can be done when the people involved in this parent-child relationship speak different languages? When the child does something wrong, how much can be said with the primary use of hand gestures? When he’s feeling down and seems very disappointed with himself, how much can be understood with words you’ve never heard before?
I realize that this Portuguese frustration I have is something well documented, but when people are willing to communicate with each other, they find a way. For example, I had a really good ‘conversation’ with one of the boys while we were playing basketball the other day, and I felt like I was able to play a good role in his life then. He wasn’t getting the ball in as often as I was, and he kept putting himself down. He would miss the hoop, and start walking away every time saying, “Não bom, não bom” which I’ve at least figured out means, “not good, not good.” I really don’t like seeing a young kid like this, with all the potential in the world, giving up so easily. So I went to him, and managed to communicate something that my dad had always told me growing up.
I told him, you shouldn’t ever say that you can’t do something. You just need to practice. When I was younger, my dad told me that I could do anything. Anything that I wanted, I just needed to work at it. So you might not be good right now, but with some practice, you can do anything. With everything in life, don’t say that you can’t. Just say that you need to work at it.
He seemed to really understand the concept. I mean, it wasn’t some hollywood moment where he got a grin on his face and started popping the ball in the basket while drinking Pepsi with a car model on his arm, but he had a stern face and was more willing to pick the ball up when it hadn’t gone in.
This was one of my rare moments of successful communication with the boys. So you can understand my frustration when I have to spend the entire weekend with them, and I can’t really speak to any of them. I have learnt how to develop our relationship in other ways, but this was exceptionally restricted on Saturday when we were driving out to a water park, roughly two hours away. When you’re in the car, and you have to turn around to talk to the boys, there’s no easy way of using hand gestures, and no form of affection because of the chairs.
I found the car was very excitable, because we were off on an outing, and there’s so much that these guys haven’t seen in the world, yet. So there’s a lot of conversation going on, and lots of laughs. There’s some back seat tussles, and huge stories being told about places that everyone’s gone to before, but I can follow none of the details. Only the bigger picture. I try to contribute to the conversation, but inevitably fall short, and I just shake my head, apologizing for my Portuguese. The boys reply saying that I was learning Portuguese much faster than anyone. I was doing really well and my Portuguese was good. I hear this, thinking, “I can’t even tell you guys about going to the beach?” So I just brush aside their encouragements and say, “Meu Portuguêse é não bom.” At this point, my basketball buddy piped up and said, “Remember what your dad said to you, and you said to me? You mustn’t say that it’s not good, you just have to work at it.”
How’s that for a refreshing slap in the face from a ten year old boy? For almost a second I was embarrassed that I wasn’t living according to my own advice, but then I was just filled with pride for this boy.. He had taken hold of that little conversation, and it was a part of him almost a week later!
Of course, that has me a little worried. It seems that I’ve only applied my dad’s advice to sport! And that’s ‘não bom’ at all. There are so many areas where I believe God needs me to overcome, and I’ve completely had a negative attitude towards them, thinking I’ll never be able to do this, or I’ll never be able to get past that. The bible, itself, is filled with the same encouragements from God that my dad gave me, telling me that I’m equipped enough, I’m encouraged enough, I’m able enough to do anything and everything that is asked of me by my Maker. I’m so thankful for this kid’s refreshing slap in my face, because he is helping me finally eradicate one attitude that doesn’t belong in my life!