Every now and then there are moments at Amigos that bring tears to my eyes. This was one of those moments.
I was standing in the back of a large crowd. We had 20 week long visitors, 7 month long volunteers, plus our 120 kids and staff members, who had gathered for a special mass that Fr. Den was giving.
Every year we celebrate the young men (and soon women) who have turned, or will turn 18 within the year. This year the mass was held for eight of our young men. There were beautiful decorations and everyone was dressed in their Sunday's finest. As part of the mass, the boys walked across a bridge to symbolize their entering into manhood.
During the mass, the men are asked to give short speeches, a promise they will make to Amigos, their home and family, now that they are of age.
I was taking pictures of Jose Louis, one of the young men here, as he was making his promise to everyone.
I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with him. At first a little shy, Jose Louis is nothing but friendly after you start talking with him. He’s willing to help you with Spanish, sit down to chat, and always has a smile to give you out in the Hogar. But besides being friendly, he has completely stepped up in so many areas of Amigos this year. He worked with some of our younger children who had gotten into trouble; he helped oversee that they were completing their punishments but also encouraged them to behave well, telling them that punishments were serious and it was important to try your best every day. All of those kids adore him and look up to him like an older brother. He is a role model to so many of our kids.
He studied for months, every day, for his entrance exam into college. He was so worried he wouldn’t have the marks to get into a university but passed with flying colors. He is currently attending university.
He could always be found helping out in different areas of the Hogar or spending time with the younger kids. From mopping in the kitchen to playing with some of the younger girls, he is a young man you can depend on.
I asked him once what his favorite part of Amigos is. “The ambiance,” he told me. “I love hearing all the kids’ voices."
I pulled the camera away from my face to listen to his speech. "I promise to take care of my little brothers and sisters," he said. "I promise to look after them." He spoke of how much he loved being at Amigos. He told everyone he would support the padrinos, be respectful of the staff and love the kids.
“Today,” he said, “I say to you these promises in words. But tomorrow, I will do them in action.”
As I wiped the tear off my cheek, I thought to myself, but you already are doing all of these things!
Padrino Wilson and I must have had the same thought because as soon as Jose Louis finished giving his speech, Wilson said to everyone, “Jose Louis, you are living out your promises in action, we are so proud of you.”
Everyone always says that Amigos is a special place and this is why. It’s helping shape these kids into beautiful young adults who live out their promises not only in what they say but in what they do.
I can't wait to see what the future holds for Jose Louis, and all of our children, knowing that Amigos has given them what they need to be role models and examples for others.
-Emily Pettinger, volunteer 2013-2014