I don’t know why I’m telling you this. It was years ago. I was younger.
Church service was held in double-wide trailer on a Saturday night. I didn’t want to go, but I’d promised a friend I would.
The trailer had seen better days. It was an ugly room, mildewed, with harsh lighting and linoleum floors. There must’ve been a hundred Mexicans inside.
And one pale-skinned redhead.
The band played for an hour. Fast, Latin music. Brown-skinned grandfathers danced with little girls. Someone’s great-granny wanted to dance with me.
It was unlike any religious gathering I’ve ever been party to.
My friend, the drummer, was Mexican, born in the States. We became friends when we’d worked as trim carpenters.
I also knew the guitarist. That night, he wore ostrich-skin boots and a silk suit. Chucho was his nickname. He was born in La Ciudad.
After the music, the deacons prayed for a boy with a burned face. His face was one big rash.
My friend leaned over and translated.
The boy had been picking vegetables in a commercial hothouse earlier that day. He was a rookie laborer. He’d touched his face—the pesticides burned his eyes and skin.
Elders placed hands on his red cheeks and prayed. A woman rubbed ointment on him. He moaned.
He didn’t even look sixteen.
Then, the church passed around milk jugs with the tops cut off. People filled them with quarters and dollar bills.
While the preacher hollered a sermon in Spanish, he worked himself into tears. I had no idea what he was saying. But he said it with such sincerity, it didn’t really matter.
During the sermon, his wife emptied the jugs onto the floor and counted cash. She filled Ziploc bags with ones and fives, then passed them to people in the seats.
Those who accepted the baggies held strong faces. A few touched their foreheads and made the Sign of the Cross.
After service, a woman served hot food on card-tables, out in the parking lot. The moon was out, crickets, too. People lingered, eating beef, pork, and lengua. One dollar per taco.
The money she earned went to her husband—a man who’d recently had his hand amputated after a construction accident.
I asked my friend what lengua was.
My friend answered, “Don’t worry about it, man.”
The preacher made a beeline for me. He said in a broken accent, “Thank you for coming tonight. You have honored me and my family.”
“Honored?” I said. “Let’s not get carried away here.”
Then, his wife handed me a Ziploc bag of money and God-blessed me.
I refused the money.
So she gave it to the boy with the burns. She whispered something to him and the boy’s splotched face turned into saltwater and smiles.
He hugged her and used words I did not understand. Then he hugged me. And for the life of me, I wish I knew what he were saying. I didn’t.
But whatever it was.
The world could use a lot more of it.