During my senior year in high school at the Academia Juarez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, “the powers that be” scheduled a band and chorus trip through northern Mexico. I looked forward to the trip with great anticipation. I played trumpet in the band and sang bass in the chorus.
We loaded ourselves and our gear on school busses and departed our little town with great enthusiasm. Prior to departure, the weather had been mild and sunny and I, like most of the others, took only a light jacket assuming the warm weather would hold for the duration of the trip. How mistaken we were! By the time we reached Chihuahua City, only about five hours away, the weather had turned bitterly cold and remained so for the entire trip. The old timers said they had never seen it so cold for that time of year—even the mesquite trees froze.
None of the motels in which we stayed had central heat so we huddled around little space heaters in our cold rooms and buried ourselves in whatever blankets we could beg or borrow. But, being young and adventurous, we survived the ordeal in pretty good spirits.
Prior to our departure from the school, we had each been given a sum of money that we were to use for the purchase of food along the way. As I and my close buddies surveyed the pesos, and finding the amount to be very adequate for our needs, we decided to see which of us could come back home with the most money in pocket. We ate well but not extravagantly.
After performing in Monterrey, Torreon, and other towns and cities along the way, we arrived at our final engagement back in Chihuahua City. By this time we were all about frozen. It was bitterly cold outside with a stiff wind blowing. For our final evening meal of the trip we all ordered big plates of “enchiladas suizas” in a restaurant located in the heart of the city on the central plaza. The restaurant wasn’t really warm but at least it provided shelter from the storm and the food was hot, abundant and delicious.
It was then that I saw Pedro. I’ll call him that because I really did not know his name. He was a boy of about eleven or twelve whom I recognized from school. He was not a student there but he was often found at the entrance to the school in his shabby clothing peddling Chiclets chewing gum. He was looking at us through the big bay window of the restaurant with his head hunched down into his shoulders and his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his thin, worn out pants. He wore no coat and tears streamed down his face. As cold as he was, I’m sure he realized that street urchins such as he would not be welcome inside the restaurant.
My first thought was to go out and bring him in and to buy him a plate of warm enchiladas. It even crossed my mind that we could take him back to the motel with us and at least provide him with some shelter for the night. Then the thought came that if I were to buy him a plate of food, some of my buddies might end up with more money at the end of the trip than I. What a predicament! I’m sure such deliberations occupied only a few seconds but in my recollections, as I watched that pitiful boy standing in the cold, it seemed an eternity.
Before I resolved the issue in my mind, a car stopped at the curb. A well dressed gentleman got out, spoke briefly to the boy and then ushered him into his car. They drove off into the night and I was never the same again.
The thought that I would hesitate for any reason to help someone in such dire need has haunted me ever since. I resolved then and there that I would never again allow such thoughts to hinder me from lending a hand to a fellow traveler on this journey through life. I have since decided to let the words of Grace Noll Crowell (1877-1969) give some direction to this aspect of my life:
“Because I have been given much, I too must give; Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live, I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see who has the need of help from me.
“Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care, I cannot see another’s lack and I not share my loaf of bread, my roof’s safe shelter over head, that he too may be comforted.
“Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord, I’ll share thy love again, according to thy word. I shall give love to those in need; I’ll show that love by word and deed, thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.” (Hymns, No. 219)
Many of us make New Year’s resolutions. Because of the above incident, this is one resolution that I renew each and every year.