A Clean Car and An Open Door
October 17, 2012
Maximo showed up one day to shine our shoes. He’s little, like most Mayan kids, and so we didn’t know how old he was. He shined our shoes and we paid him too much. We don’t really wear shoes that need to be shined, so we asked him if he wanted to wash our cars.
Maximo was about 9 when he started coming around but looked more like 6 or 7. It’s a big name for such a little kid. He's 12 now and still can’t reach the top of the van to wash it. I paid him Q30, which is about $4, and Gladys, who works in our house and helps us navigate myriad cultural things, told me I was paying him way too much. Q10 was more than enough. So I pay him Q20.
I mean, this kid works. We have sort of a routine. He comes on Saturday because if he comes during the week I tell him he has to be in school. Sometimes there are teacher strikes or holidays when school is closed so he comes by then as well. He either comes around 8 in the morning or at noon. Almost without fail he rings the doorbell right as we’re all sitting down to breakfast or lunch. It’s uncanny how he does that.
So he comes and washes the car, sometimes both cars. He’s a little negotiator, that Maximo. I’ll tell him that only the van needs to be washed, and he’ll offer to wash the truck for half price or to wash it today and I can pay him next week. He’s relentless. So we barter and I tell him that he needs to become a businessman. We’ll see. He’s got a long way to go, that kid.
He lives about an hour from here in a place called El Rancho. He takes a bus early in the morning, around 6. When he gets to my house, he eats, washes the car, and then goes and shines shoes for the rest of the day until he goes home at 4:00 or so. Once he came up to our house and asked if we had a shed he could sleep in because he and his cousin didn’t make enough money to pay the Q6 for the bus to get home. So we gave him money for the last bus – I mean, what do you do? I assumed he was telling the truth.
When he first started coming around, he told me that his mom had died and that it was just his dad and 6 other kids. Sounded pretty typical, honestly, and we felt sorry for him. Then one day his cousin was at our house waiting for Maximo and started talking about his aunt. I told him that I thought Maximo’s mom was dead, and he said no, she’s alive. Still not sure what got lost in translation. I cut him slack -this little boy walks the streets shining shoes – it’s not right. So we give him food whenever he comes. Sometimes he brings a few friends, maybe a cousin or a little brother. But they never come without Maximo
I pray for him and want to invest in his life so I bought him a comic book version of Mark and a Bible in a version he could actually read. He was to read a chapter a week and bring me back questions. I said he has to do two things in order to wash the car: go to school and bring me a question about the Bible. At first he asked me how many disciples there were, then what their names were, then almost silly questions like what color hair did Jesus have. It was fun explaining to him that Jesus probably looked a lot more like him than me.
Then one day close to Easter he and Edgar, his younger cousin, came to wash the car. They washed it (except the roof, of course) and as they sat and ate beans and rice and tortillas they asked me this: “Why did Jesus have to die for our sins?” I looked up to the sky and laughed and shook my head and thanked the Lord and started to go through the Bible with them. I walked them through The Roman’s road, John 3, Ephesians 2, we just jumped all over. I talked to them and drew some pictures and after 30 minutes or so they started to get a little bored so we left it at that.
Since then they have asked me all kinds of questions like why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin and how the does Trinity work, and what does it mean to have faith in Christ. It’s wonderful! It’s not even technically part of my job here – it’s just what the Lord literally brought to our front steps.
I have no idea what will happen to Maximo. Maybe he’ll go to college. Maybe become a pastor? Or maybe, like so many kids in Guatemala, a hard life on the street will take him. I just don’t know. But he’s here and he comes and brings his questions and we love him just because he’s there. So we just keep talking and giving him beans and rice and answering questions. We’ll see what happens. Maybe the Lord will do something amazing in that kid. Maybe He already has.
Did you know? Camino Global has shared the journey with Spanish speakers since 1890.