Decidedly Academic. Distinctively Christian.
Written by FCS Parent, Don Reynolds
Come to the Dominican Republic.
Meet at LAX for your red eye flight. Don’t forget your frozen turkey! Watch your 8th grade class drag and kick defrosted turkeys in the Santo Domingo airport the next day. You will load those turkeys with Manny Mota, the Dodger legend, in 85 degree heat in the back of his pickup. Is that ok?
Walk through the streets of El Tamarindo. Poverty everywhere. You will see homes with dirt floors. Naked kids. The smell. The trash. A baby girl is sitting next to her teenage mom eating dirt to fill her stomach. A boy that is scarred from the fire that wants a hug. Seeing that boys eye light up when Mr Gains gives that hug.
Walk into the Manny Mota Foundation and see hundreds of faces. They are so happy to see you. You will meet Margarita Mota who works tirelessly to feed these kids.
You might meet a guy in line for food who you think is rude.
The next day you realize he is deaf. His name is Alex. 21 years old and is now a Facebook friend. He just wants to talk to some one.
You will be hissed at by hungry kids when you are in the cage, the fenced off area you keep your stuff. They will yell “Americanos Americanos” while you eat your lunch. They only want water. Your not allowed to give them water. Too many kids will come. You eat in front of them. Margarita feeds the 40 of you about the same amount of food she gives to 150 kids. You are her guest. You will have to figure out how to handle that on your own.
The kids will smile when you give them a toy.
You will see your kid work for hours and not complain. Chores like doing dishes in a small, hot, cramped kitchen for a couple hours. Working alongside the locals who do this everyday, all year around.
You will hold a 12 year olds baby. Why does she have a baby? At the same time you will watch your daughter hold another baby while the teenage mom eats lunch. These moms are so blessed. Your daughter may be asked why she does not have kids. She’s 12 after all.
You will get to know Manny Mota, the most welcoming man you will ever meet. You will see him be so compassionate towards the kids. You will see him run other kids out of there.
You will learn he can’t help everyone. There are too many. He helps the ones he can, the ones that have a chance.
You will go to his house. It’s a baseball museum.
You might catch a Friday afternoon baseball practice at the Foundation. It will be hot and humid. It might rain.
Manny will offer you his well water to drink. You will hope it is safe. It is.
Go to the orphanage that changed our boys lives. You might teach a 5 year old how to throw a frisbee. Or play baseball with the orphans that have each other’s back. For a moment all the Foothill boys and the orphaned are the same. They are kids playing ball.
You will hand out baby clothes and diapers to teenage moms. Hold their baby’s. They are so happy. There are so many moms. Too many. They are trying to push their way in to the cage get a handful of diapers. You will see Carlito, Manny’s adopted son, yelling at those moms to get back in line. You will cry when Manny says no more. You have to stop. Lock the gate. Put the stuff away for another day. You will cry when Manny let’s a couple more teenage moms in.
There is always a couple more.
Watch you daughter sing to the Grandmothers. Watch her feed them lunch she made. Watch the hugs. You will hand out gift bags of lotion and soap. These grandmas are forgotten. Your daughter will honor someone who is worth honoring.
Later that night you will hear story’s about your daughter. You will hear about the grandma who did not get a gift bag. You were out of them, not enough. Your daughter takes off her necklace and puts it around that grandmothers neck. You see the picture another parent took of the tears forming in the grandmas eyes. She is wearing a beautiful necklace with a silver cross. We have great kids.
You will visit local schools.
One no bigger than your bed room with 75 kids. They will sing to you with heavenly voices and huge smiles in their face.
You will watch you daughter play with kids at the foundation. Piggy back rides. Patty cake. Baseball. Jokes. Smiles.
Your daughter will be followed all day by kids.
She will meet Annie. Fall in love with that 7 year old. Your daughter will cry at night when she thinks of Annie. She may never see her again. Then she will smile minutes later thinking about giving Annie a piggyback ride. So emotional.
Watch your daughter hand out the clothes that you shipped down the month before. The locals are so appreciative for some shoes and a shirt. She will learn that she has so much stuff at home, too much stuff.
She will learn to be more great-full.
She will sing and dance to hundreds, puppet shows to dozens, giving testimonies to grandmas, and color with a preschooler.
She will help with face painting dozens of kids. You will help keep control of the crowd. “Una lina.” See their eyes sparkle when you tell them how pretty they are with that flower on their cheek.
When you loose control of the crowd you tell them “no mas, no mas.” Look at the disappointment in her eyes because she can’t have her face painted.
You will see her teacher glow as your kid sing songs in Spanish. You will see her teacher cry when your daughter show compassion.
You will see kids who’s only daily meal is the small bowl of rice with a piece of chicken from Magarita. You will watch the same kid feed some of his food to his baby sister.
You will have lunch with Manny everyday. You might be so lucky to have Manny hand you the other half of his fried yucca root and say to you “Man this is good, try it!” And it is good! Wow he is wearing his 1988 World Series ring.
You will see the neighborhood.
Hand out candy.
Give a kid a plastic bug and he will give you a smile. You made his day.
You will see an 8th grade class bond. Ride on a bus with the kids dancing. Ride on a bus with the parents dancing. Ride on the bus with everyone sleeping. Man you are tired.
Feed over 500 thanksgiving lunch with the turkeys you brought on the plane. Are they ok to eat? Carve a turkey with a dull knife with Manny. You hope you don’t cut him. We just fed 500. Over 500 individuals had a great day! Now it your our turn for Thanksgiving Lunch. It’s 4:00.
You will be asked to fix a pipe or build a shelf. Get in the bus to find the right part at the store.
You will meet Miguel, Angel and Ilberto, our bus drivers. Our guardians. Watch them watch our kids to make sure they are safe. Watch their eyes as a street vendor approaches in the city. The vender is careful and knows who is in charge. The big teddy bears are in charge.
Pizza in the city with the kids. One of the big teddy bears sees an old woman who is hungry. She loves the pizza too.
Bug bites everywhere! Where are they coming from? The sand, the grass? They are everywhere on everyone!
Stay at the hotel with the beautiful beach and bright sunsets. Swim in the warm ocean. Take cold showers.
Drink warm coffee. Pina colladas for the kids. Some kids drink 6 or 7 a night.
Sometimes you’ll have internet.
Sometimes you won’t have running water in your room.
No paper in the toilet! That’s gross.
Eat good food at the endless buffet thinking of kids who get one bowl of rice a day. Not fair.
Devotions in the morning. Circle time at night. Hear the kids experiences. Cry and laugh. Watch them grow closer to each other. Watch them grow closer to God.
Come to the DR.
There is always a couple more who could use your help.