The Uproar

My Way / Gracie Limauro

photo by Lea Hendricks

photo by Lea Hendricks

Gracie Limauro, Contributing Writer

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Rarely does a Guatemalan handyman cross paths with an American teenager, much less change the life of one. Well then, I guess you can call this situation rare. I am almost certain that this specific handyman, named Severo, does not remember me. But I remember him. I remember him very clearly. Severo, a tiny man, spoke only Spanish the short time I knew him. We did not communicate with words, yet he taught me more than any English-speaking person ever had.

I met Severo at the Hogar de los Niños Orphanage last summer. High in the mountains of rural Guatemala, the orphanage appears to be on top of clouds, casting an angelic backdrop to the scene. Severo led my mission group in our work, as he had worked at the orphanage for over twenty years. Each day for the past two decades, Severo would ride up the gigantic mountain on a bicycle to and from his home. Awed by his tedious commute to work, I bombarded Severo with questions in shaky Spanish, trying to understand how the small, middle-aged man I saw before me held such strength and perseverance. He chuckled softly and I soon realized that he would rather work in silence, so I held back my itching curiosity and abided by his unspoken request. One day, quite to my surprise, I had learned that Severo invited us to his home for a meal. Excitement bubbled deep inside my chest as the mission group piled inside the back of a rusty pick-up truck to travel down the mountain. I felt like I would finally get answers about the mysterious Severo.

Shock: the word I would use to describe what I felt the entire visit. And no, not only because Severo’s home was seated in poverty, and not only because he had seven children living in two rooms, but because of how proud Severo was to show us it all. His shack of a house was a circus full of short people, exotic food, and homely warmth. Pine needles, a symbol of welcoming, laced the clay floor. All I could do was sit quietly, stunned, while his plump wife served us delectable Guatemalan dishes and his younger children expertly braided my hair. After dinner, Severo excitedly paraded us around his humble home and garden, pointing to everything he created from scratch. As I stood in his garden, goggling at a spectacular patchwork field of farmland overlooking the mountains, my heart burst with respect and love for Severo and his family. They gave up their time and resources to welcome wealthy foreigners into their home; I simply could not believe it.

Even before I met Severo, the thought of experiencing life through the perception of others enthralled me. I love people-watch and read about the lives of unique humans. I sob and scream and squeal while reading books because I feel each character deeply. The reason Severo frustrated me is because I did not understand him. Glimpsing into his world, however, made it clear that Severo holds life at a different standard than everyone else. Kindness has no language or wealth barrier in his mind. Even though I was only a small blip in his life, Severo continues to be a huge part of mine. I often ponder his shameless generosity and unexplained altruism, and attempt to mirror his actions to those I see every day. He will never read this, and I am not even sure he remembers who I am, but I still want to thank him for sacrificing himself for his family and treating foreign strangers with such benevolence. That tiny Guatemalan handyman touched me forever, and I cannot wait to experience more of the joys of life through humans like Severo.

 

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