Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thank you, por todo

“Thank you! Thank you! Por todo! Por todo!”

The little man scurried in and out of the crowd of men that surrounded him, saying these words over and over again. Each man nodded in acknowledgement, as they shook each other’s hands. One turned to put the tow rope back in his trunk. Another kicked the small tree limbs to the side of the road, so vehicles could once again pass by.

We happened upon the scene just as it was unfolding. As we rounded a hairpin turn, on the mountain road we’d chosen to explore in our new home state of Colorado, we saw a commotion. Two small SUVs were parked on the right shoulder of the road. They were only half off the road, since the shoulder dropped off to a steep cliff. Huddled in front, between, and behind the vehicles was an assortment of dark skinned women and young children, all dressed in their holiday clothes, since it was Christmas Day.

On the left side of the road was the problem. A group of well dressed young men, in their shiny best shoes, surrounded a small truck, that had fallen off the side of the road, into a deep snow bank. Behind the wheel of the truck was a tiny, elderly Hispanic man. It was not clear which people knew each other, and who had just stopped to be good Samaritans. But it was immediately apparent that few of them spoke English.

We stopped, of course, because our vehicle contained three strong men, who could contribute to the rescue operation. One was my husband, who always seems to be the one to step up when someone needs rescuing, and the other two were my tall teen sons, whose characters are very similar to their dads. They eagerly jumped from our truck and hurried over to the action.

What followed was a series of tries, pushing and pulling that little truck, trying to release it from the grip of a greedy snow bank. With every attempt, it seemed to become more lodged into place. My sons, not understanding most of what the other men were saying, gestured and nodded, as they thought of new ideas, and followed the pantomimed instructions of the people around them. At one point my oldest son decided to hike a bit up the side of the hill, to retrieve some branches to use for traction. The snow bank that had the little truck trapped was thrilled to grab my boy’s legs, and when he sunk up to the top of his thigh with his second step, there were hearty laughs all around, no translation needed.

For almost an hour the effort continued. A group of people, pulled together in a common mission, in the middle of a sunny holiday afternoon. Finally, a truck came around the corner, that had another willing helper, but this time one who owned a tow rope. Our big Suburban had been no help, when there was no way to tie it to the little truck. Within minutes the two vehicles were attached and with one big thrust, the tiny truck was dislodged.

In the middle of the road, finally free from his bondage, the small Hispanic man jumped out of the truck and eagerly thanked the crowd around him. Most of them barely acknowledged his words. Men who choose to be silent heroes are generally not the accolade type. They were just content to pack up their gear and be on their way.

But their effort meant the world to one small man, who only spoke broken English. “Thank you! Por todo! Thank you! Por todo!” It was all he could say.

And I came away from the scene with just as much gratitude. We have tried to raise our children to be open and accepting of all people, no matter the color of their skin or the size of their wallet. For my fifteen year old, who rarely sees the value of his tedious Spanish classes, it was a lesson in how very valuable having language skills can be. And for my maturing teen boys, who both walked away feeling two feet taller that day, it was a great reminder that we’re all put on this earth to help each other out. Even if we don’t share a common language.

Someone needs help. You help them. And it feels good to everyone who comes out the other side.

To the precious little Hispanic man, who was so very grateful for the kindness of strangers, I have a message for you too. Thank you for giving my boys an opportunity to open their hearts on a sunny Christmas day. It’s a memory I know they will carry with them for a very long time. So gracias, for everything.

Thank you, por todo.


1 comment:

Cation Designs said...

That was beautiful. I had been wondering if you were going to reveal more of that story! It's funny, I live in Southern California so it's always been obvious how important it is to take Spanish; I hadn't thought about how it might be different in another part of the country.