On March 24, 2011, I sat in a Pizza Hut in Guatemala City, Guatemala, surrounded by four middle school kids. Hubby and I had traveled to Guatemala for vacation, and our first stop was two nights in Guatemala City so we could meet a child he sponsors through an international agency. We invited the child’s family to come to the meeting, and the sponsored child’s mother and three siblings met us at the agency office, along with various drivers and social workers.
All of the children were 12-16 years old, and each presented us with handmade cards welcoming us. We brought the family gifts of towels, school supplies, and hygiene products. We presented the gifts in large gift bags, and the sponsored child reached in and took out each gift slowly, neatly organizing the gifts on the table before him. After emptying the gift bags, he sat in a chair and started crying. He explained it was his dream that his sponsor would visit him, and his dream had come true. It was pure and magical.
After the initial meeting, we took the entire family to a local zoo, and, from there, we went to Pizza Hut for a late lunch. This was not your local Pizza Hut, unless your local Pizza Hut also has armed guards in front. This Pizza Hut was also notable in that it was a two-story restaurant that was as nice, if not nicer, than any American casual dining restaurant.
It was the first time any of the children had been to the zoo, been in a restaurant, or eaten pizza. They had a blast, and so did we. Most of the meal, the kids helped me with my Spanish, while I helped them with their English. They were all bright and had big dreams for the future. Their career aspirations were to be an accountant, architect, school teacher, and social worker.
The kids’ job dreams have always stuck with me. These children had nothing. Their father was disabled, and their mother supported the family by making tortilla shells. Yet, here they were, helping me with my Spanish and sharing their dreams for the future, untethered to their difficult circumstances. Smiling all the time, full of promise and life.
The visit ended up being one of those encounters that permanently alters your perspective, forever widening the scope of your vision, your understanding of the larger world around you. You hear and see the universality of wanting a better life, and you can never again take for granted your good fortune in being born into the circumstances that met you on Day 1. It wasn’t perfect, sure, but it was so much better than so many people experience.
I wish everyone could have their Guatemala Pizza Hut experience. It’s days like that that make international travel so rewarding, so broadening. I’ll never forget that day, and we hope to return to the country again before hubby’s sponsored child ages out of the program. When we do, I hope I encounter four young adults on the paths to reaching their dreams.