But I’ll call him Dino.
The 13 year old who stood before me begging for my watch had quite a reputation.
Other short-term missionaries who had been to our rural Nicaraguan village numerous times in the past had seen Dino grow up from a small child. They reported:
Dad; not in the picture.
Mom; did unspeakable things to earn or steal money, and who place her concerns before either of her two children.
Little sister; hanging on for dear life. Dino watched out for her and shared his spoils.
Dino, begged, borrowed, or stole everything. He popped up anywhere, everywhere, and at any time throughout the village, often when least expected. He knew all the secrets of every family in town. His classroom disruptions were legendary. One of our team told me “he’s got a little devil in him.” He was tolerated by all, but dismissed like a three minute tropical rain storm, without a second thought.
Dino was sensitive. His feelings were easily hurt, and from his body language, he was carrying a life time of disappointments on his under nourished shoulders.
Dino came to vacation Bible school, the week-long effort our team hosted at the local elementary school. In a crowd of 300 children, Dino hung out amongst the fringes. Older kids picked on him. Younger kids kept their distance. Yet, as regular as a jeweler’s personal time piece, Dino would show up every day for opening exercises and class.
Dino showed up in my class of senior high youth. He was breaking new ground. Yet, he yearned for acceptance so bad it was painful. He was playing the part of the village idiot as if he had a life time of rehearsing for the part. My English was translated to localized Spanish and I could see his brows furrow and tears well up in his eyes when I said, “Dino, either you’re going to work in our class, or you can sit quietly on the side.”
Dino chose neither.
He breathed hard, got up, and stormed out.
That noon at lunch, the chit-chat over the events of the morning turned to Dino. “Yes,” I said. “True to form, he got angry and blew out of my classroom.” Everyone shook their head as if we all understood. Turns out none, but one, did.
… except for one teacher, who had younger elementary children in her class. She understood. “Did you know,” she began slowly, “that midway through my class this morning, Dino popped in, and asked me if there was any way he could help?” For the rest of the class (and for the rest of the week), Dino assisted in the classroom by being a very successful teacher’s aide, teaching vacation Bible school.
Later in the week, in the evening, prior to retiring for the night, I sat on a chair watching the neighborhood kids swarming us in the street, playing some pick up street football, and just hanging with us odd North American visitors. Dino came up to me smiling. We didn’t share the same language.
“You become a Padre some day?” I asked, holding my index finger like a clerical collar. After a few attempts at translation, I could see understanding descend upon him like a veil. Dino laughed, and giggled, shook his head and pointed at me, then turned and disappeared into the dusk.