It was 4:30 am and I couldn’t fall back asleep. I could not stop thinking about a little boy named Danny whom I met while working with the SJDS Library & Wyoming Rotary Club to fix up a rural school outside of San Juan del Sur.
Danny was one of the kids at the school who came up to me out of curiosity. He stood next to Jon and I and said “hola”. We started talking to him for a bit until he found a white stick bug on the wall. He put his hand underneath it and let it crawl up his arm. It was a very cool bug until Danny and his buddy decided to put it on my neck.
I of course freaked out and ran away which made us all laugh really hard. Finally, after running around for 15 minutes, Danny came up to me to shake my hand and call it a truce by saying, “amigos” with a sincere smile. I smiled back, shook his hand and said, “Si, amigos.”
From then on Danny, Jon and I hung out until we had leave late afternoon. He taught us how to play the local game “trumpon” with his very own wooden trumpon (a wooden top that you throw down on the ground by string) in the dirt road. When it was time to leave, we said goodbye, told him that we would see him tomorrow (we had to come back the next day to install a small water tank) and hopped in the back of the truck. I felt a tap on my shoulder, looked down and saw Danny holding up his red wooden trumpon in the air offering it to me as a gift. My heart dropped. This was his prized possession. Jonathon told me he had tried giving it to him but he said no and wanted me to say no as well.
Of course I wasn’t going to take it, but the gesture blew me away and made my eyes water. The one prized possession Danny had, he wanted to give to us. I thanked him and told him that I couldn’t take it but I would bring him something special as a thank you the next day. Jonathon and I knew exactly what to give him when we came back to give school supplies: a brand new backpack.
We came back the next day to give Danny his backpack and the rest of the kids in the school school supplies as well. We waited until all of the kids left school and we had a moment with just us and Danny to give him his gift.
Jonathon pulled out the backpack from our box of supplies and asked Danny if he liked it. Danny nodded, smiled and started touching it. We then both asked him if he wanted it. He stared at us, shocked, and didn’t know what to say–so we asked him again. He nodded and we handed it over to him. He looked at it for a while with a confused expression on his face.
He told us that his broken back pack was passed down to him from his three older brothers and that he had never had a backpack of his own. We smiled and told him that that backpack was for him and only him. He smiled and gave us both a high five.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back into town and say goodbye. This goodbye was one of the hardest goodbyes either of us ever expereinced with a kid here in Nicaragua. We really connected with this guy and wanted to mentor him so that he could accomplish all of his dreams, but we knew this was our final goodbye. We had given him some tools to continue his studies with confidence, but the truth was that we were attached and wanted to do more. We didn’t know what it could be as we said goodbye to Danny, all we knew was how difficult it was for us to let go and say goodbye.
At the final moment, I knew what it was I wanted him to hear, understand and always remember–I wanted him to know what he could do anything in this world. The idea that I could do anything in this world was somthing that was told to me all of the time during my childhood and that sincere belief that I could actually do anything I wanted to motivated me to become who I am today.
I wanted Danny to understand this as well, despite the circumstances he was dealt. I had just a few seconds to express all of this to him and I didn’t know exactly how to say it in Spanish. So I looked at him and said, “Si se puede, Danny. Si se puede.” (Yes you can.) He looked at me, very sad, and I looked back at him trying to hold back the tears. I shook his hand and finally said goodbye.
This was the scene that I kept replaying in my head at 4 in the morning–over and over again. I wish I could have said more but because I didn’t, I will make sure that I tell every child we give to what I wanted to really tell Danny. Danny was a life changer for us both and he will stay with us everywhere we go to give back. Wherever we go, we will spread the message to the kids that they can do anything in this world–we will tell them, “Si se puede”.