Last year when I first met Nahuel in the boys' institute, I found a chiquitito.. a flaquito.. a little kid who was innocent and adorable. Over the year, he has grown, both in height and width, and has been negatively affected by the older kids of the institute in terms of attitude. I don't blame him. When you're constantly surrounded by those who also suffer from lack of familial love, what do you do but survive?
The good news is he has an interest in basketball, as I think I explained in an earlier post. So when we arrived yesterday morning to the institute, he greeted us with ball in hand. Another, Matias, came up to me, "Show my grandmother how to spin the basketball on your finger!" hehe. His grandmother, completely equal in face and build, visits every Tuesday morning.
Many of us left for the local basketball court. More than usual, and it made me give thanks for the many volunteers we've had recently. Flor, Betania, Javi, Adam and I. That means we can, or at least try, to keep more kids under control. It's still hard. Hard to watch the ups and downs that can happen within seconds for each one.
On our way over, I chatted with Nahuel and showed him some more techniques on how to dribble. I showed him how it's important to look up while dribbling, and we practiced a few drills along the empty streets. He was a little flaky when it came to playing the game with us, although I also must say it's hard for me to stay focused when half the time it's the uphill battle of making sure no one fights each other/runs away/says bad words/remains a ball hog/defies all basketball rules/has no patience for the less-basketball inclined... need I go on?
When Nahuel did play, he incorporated his new dribbling skills--even going behind the back a few times! I was so proud! At the same time, he passed to poor Matias too hard (and on purpose), which caused Matias' nose to bleed. He looked at me afterward with shame.
At the end of our time, I waited for each one to pass the entrance of the boys' home. I had arrived earlier than everyone else, because I was talking with Gabriel.. more on that later. To each boy, I explained for what reason I was proud of them, and then encouraged them in the areas that I didn't like and handed them their cookie. When Nahuel's turn came, I spoke highly of his improving athletic skills. He smiled.
"But you know what I didn't like?" I asked.
He looked down, but then back up. "When I threw the ball at Matias' face."
I agreed, and said that it would also be nice if he cleaned up his vocabulary a little.
"I don't want to do it again," he said as I gave him the prize for the week and then our parting hug.
I don't want to. What a confession. There are plenty of things that I don't want to do, and I still do them. Sounds very Romans 7 like. Once again, proof of our need for grace. So I suppose I'll tell the story about Gabriel here too..
Gabriel has a Ginoboli jersey, and he anxiously put it on when we leave to play a little bball. I didn't get much time with him on the way over, but on the way back I was able to ask him more about what his family is like and why he is living in the institute. He has 7 brothers and sisters, ranging from 4 and 5 years old to the mid-20s. He loves sports, and also has learned to play several instruments.
Unfortunately, there was an argument between two of his older siblings and he had to come here. Obviously it's unclear on the details, because he's also too young to understand everything that could be going on. But the part that got me most is now he's not able to practice the instruments he's come to learn. He has a guitar still, but it's not the best quality. I can't imagine what it's like to keep such a thing secure amongst all the others as well. But I digress...
I asked him if he believes in God. Where that question came from, I'm still not sure, but he responded with a yes so I came back with a "Why?"
"I'm Catholic," he said.
I took a moment to internally pray for what to say next and this came out, "So what does that mean?" Pause. "Why believe in God? What did he do for you?"
"He gave me a family," Gabriel responded.
Good answer. "What else?"
"Would it be okay if I shared with you what God did for me?" I asked.
I can't believe how the story of my cousin and all that God did through that history came tumbling out of my mouth. I tried to explain how I learned that God had given me a loving family too, but more than that is he has saved me from death and/or the fear of it.
"You see, I could say that I'm a Christian because I'm Evangelical," I explained. "But I don't think it works that way. I think it takes believing in what Jesus did for us. And while my cousin was innocent when she was murdered, Jesus lived a longer life and was innocent. That's incredible, don't you think?"
He agreed as we were arriving at the institute. I thanked him for letting me share and I asked if we could continue the conversation in the weeks to come, Lord willing we receive those weeks. Overall, it was cool to be able to say all that was said. I pray for more valor.. more courage to press on!