Maybe you don't remember me, or maybe you do - I hope you do, because I remember you. When I was 16 years old and a junior in high school, I came to your village in Honduras for a few days with a group of doctors and dentists. Since at 16, I was clearly not a doctor or dentist, my sole job was to administer oral parasite medicine to every single person that passed through our clinic for the 10 days we were in Honduras. We were in your village, Las Lajas, for two days - and for whatever reason, you decided to spend those two days hanging out with me.
I had basic Spanish phrases well buckled down after two years of Spanish in high school - but that didn't mean the two of us could carry on any kind of a conversation. I don't know how we even got started playing our little game - but before the afternoon of the first day, we were going back and forth translating random items around the school room we were in. You pointed to a pencil, "lapiz" and then I said, "pencil." I pointed to a ballon in one of the textbooks, "balloon" and you repeated me -saying balloon like it was a question. "Bomba" you said and I told you, "me gustan bombas" and you enthusiastically answered, "yo tambien!" We spent the next day playing this game, getting more and more silly with each new vocabulary word.
Franklin, you'd never have known that our two afternoons goofing around and giggling at each other's pronunciations was the door that opened up and changed the course of my life. After leaving Honduras, I landed in the US and firmly announced to my family and friends that I was going to learn language. And then I went to Susquehanna and majored in Spanish where I met friends that I may not have been close with otherwise, and with whom I am still in touch with today (hi, Dehkonti and Alyson!)
And then I studied abroad in Costa Rica where I met Yemily, and Meg, and Allison (hi, girls!) and they helped me adjust to living in a new place so far away from home. We spent our days truly living the pura vida. Yemily showed me that praying can be whatever you need it to be, Meg made me laugh even when I felt like crying from being homesick, and Allison helped pull me out of my shell to meet new people after we first arrived. And in Costa Rica, I met Maria; my host mother. The kind of mom and friend that she was to me has a lasting impact on the kind of mom and friend I am to this day. The only person who cried more than me when I was getting on the plane to come home was my mama tica.
And then I taught English as a Second Language with Teach for America where I met Elena, and Stephanie, and Kelly, and Alana, and Amy, and Stirling. Friends that helped me adjust, again, to a new place so far away from home. Elena who can read my facial expressions and know exactly what I'm thinking-even through the phone, and Stephanie who knows the song inside my heart, and Kelly & Alana who I made and shared a home with, and Amy who was a bright light of laughter more times than I can count, and Stir who is the kind of a friend you feel connected to even if its months that go by before seeing each other.
And while I taught ESL at PS27, I met Sabrina - my saving grace at school when I thought I would go mad or breakdown; she made me laugh even when we could have cried. And my students, goodness, my kids. Maria, and Elisa, and Mariano, and Anthony, and Tyquan, and Ines, and Ulysses, and Alejandro, and Daysiaha. My students who have forever changed the way I think about education; who will forever be held in my heart as 'my kids.'
Because we met, and because you spent two afternoons playing a little game in Las Lajas, Honduras with a gringa - you have pushed my life into a different trajectory. Before you, I was moving along on a fairly straight path, and then I met you and it notched a little to the left. Because of our meeting, I have met many people and had many experiences that have significantly contributed to the person that I am today.
I don't know where you are, Franklin - but I am sending you love and gratitude from my house in Pennsylvania. I am sending you peace and hope for a full belly and your health and the health of your loved ones. You are a shining example in my life that you can never truly know how far your influence can reach. I hope you remember me, because I am grateful for meeting you.
Next thank you (third) Thursday: Someone who is a breath of fresh air