Every time we run into a friend that we haven’t seen in a long time, we like to say things like “what a small world.”
It is a small world for most of us. We don’t make it an effort to see most of it. Our personal worlds are even smaller. And in those tiny worlds we live in, we find comfort in knowing that those around us are just like us. They think like us, dress like us, and want the same things we want in life.
The truth is, we live in a big world, filled with strange and exotic creations. There is so much to see and experience from amazing architectural wonders to the beauty of God’s landscapes that can provide unforgettable moments of wonder.
It’s a great big world, and in that world filled with so many unknowns, the one thing we are most afraid of are other people. On a Sunday morning in June, I met a 9-year-old girl from Honduras. She was making a big mess of an art project. Shades of greens and blues, strokes of imagination all over the table. She was smiling and showing off her creation. Her parents ate breakfast on a military cot just a few feet away.
As we chatted in Spanish, she shared her story. Unsure of how long ago her journey began, she said that her dad told her it had been six or seven days since she was back home. In a week’s time, walking for long distances, and hopping on buses from town to town, she had traveled for over 2,000 miles.
The little Honduran was a stranger in a strange land, but she didn’t show any fear. On that day, in a large warehouse-style building used for county fair exhibits, she was coloring and creating a picture that I didn’t understand. Only she knew what it was trying to say.
As I watched her chat with her new friends, other tiny girls from Central American countries, I came to the realization that we adults have been talking to each other and talking about each other in ways that make us not understand each other. We forget that conversation doesn’t always have to be about trying to change minds. Why do we always try to convince others that they are wrong about whatever they are saying?
Kids can teach us amazing lessons. She told me about her time crossing a river.
“I thought it was going to be clear like Clorox,” she said. “Instead, it was dark and filled with stuff.”
She made it across the river and on to the next leg of her journey.
“I’m going to Massachusetts, where I have an uncle.”
The next day she left the fairgrounds building. Once she gets to Massachusetts, a new life will begin for a 9-year-old Honduran who just a week earlier left a homeland considered one of the most violent countries on the planet.
We live in a great big world, but until we experience the life of a traveling nine-year-old Honduran, we will continue to think that this home of ours is a small place not worth exploring. We need to open our minds to experience the blessings we can receive from the people and places we have never seen before.
I hope she makes it to Massachusetts. I’ll be praying for her.
Abe Villarreal is the assistant dean of student activities at Western New Mexico University. When not on campus, he enjoys writing about his observations on life, people and American traditions.