Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year

On this crisp morning with the New England snow falling I can’t help but remember where I was a year ago. With full anticipation, a naive heart and adventure in the air, I rang in the New Year surrounded by fireworks in Granada, Nicaragua. Let’s just say that the climate was not the only change that has taken place since last year. Hahahaha

Certainly right around this time of year, folks do a lot of reflection about the year that has just past, and the one they are anticipating at the drop of the ball in Times Square! However, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting this year and I’m really ready to just LIVE!

As crazy, trite or cliché that it may sound, life is meant for living and experiencing. As much as I try to plan my way around and through life, navigating speed bumps and trying to avoid uncomfortable pain or even bouts of unexplainable joy, I am gradually finding that it means very little in retrospect. In fact, those very moments that I try to avoid are the exact experiences that I am meant to live. I don’t mean to say that I am meant for pain or any of the raw crappy events that fill up some days in a life, but rather, moments are meant to be lived and not avoided.

Life is meant to be lived and not planned and plotted.

In this last year, I have rested my head in 6 different countries. I read some great book. I listened to some fantastic music. I met some really incredible people and even built relationships with some of them. I made contact with old amigos that still make me laugh. I have danced my heart out on several occasions. I went though at least two boxes of tissues by myself this year (for different reasons…who knew that I wasn’t invincible…haha). I made some people laugh and some others cry and I think my family is really happy that I am home. I think of Latin America every single day and I’ve managed NOT to plan my next big trip. But rather, I am living for the moment…the here and now.

On this eve of a new year, I am truly grateful and humbled. I couldn’t have planned it better myself.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


In the summer of the year 2000 I found myself in Guatemala. I had just finished my freshman year of college. I was on a trip with friends, doing things I didn’t quite agree with (“missionary work”) and realized my place in the disconnect of it all. That was the moment that I realized my calling and I stopped for those few minutes to collect myself. I was on a rooftop terrace, staring at a volcano, I took a deep breath and reflected.

I left Guatemala shortly after, only to revisit it in my memory, every single day since. Not one single day passes when I don’t think of Guatemala. I have collections of memories in my mind…of people, places, smells, beauties and joys and all the places in between.

I have since been back to Guatemala several times to recollect all the pieces that I lose in the process of living. I go to Guatemala to collect myself and reflect. It’s not the only place that I go in this world when I am looking to regroup but it is the place that keeps me grounded and connected to all that was and all of the hope of who I might become.

Guatemala, in all her beauty, suffering and transition also holds a piece of my heart, vulnerable to the textured mapping of my life…all that I have lived and all that I live for. And thus, my heart has been broken there, in every sense of the word…broken and mended, broken and mended…broken…
Ready to live and thrive again. So that I stay humble…so that I remain open…so that I strive for compassion…so that I always hope for the best in people and situations.

I never lose hope….
I never lose hope…for Guatemala…or what I have learned there.

We are all called to live lives that are full. I am grateful for my youth and that I am living out my calling in a diversity of ways and emotions.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dia de Gracias

Thus passes the day of giving thanks 2007. My first time at home for this holiday in three years. Good food...good laughs...I miss El Salvador. I won't go into too many details, but I will say that somehow it's easier to be fully thankful there...than it is to crack a smile here and really feel it some days. Beyond the fake hugs and kisses at the local watering hole the other night, I am past my eyes in fake gestures and superficial conversations. I miss the hard core reality that strips away all the crap...and a simple conversation with a fiend in ES seemed to mean more than I anticipated them to be.

But don't let this reality check fool you....I am still very full of life...full of anticipation...full of many things to be thankful for.

My family...friends....all those people in between...a job that I love...sweet sunshine in the morning and the realization that I am living a life that is in a place of privilege.

So yesterday as I remembered the pilgrims and the native...and their I recalled the injustice and the oppression that this country was built on, I also remembered the true spirit of this holiday...the spirit of giving thanks. A spirit that can transfer over to other lands (like ES) where I celebrated Dia de Gracias with a whole lot of other people last year.

Living a life of gratefulness is what I will strive to cultivate in this heart of mine.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Last Saturday

Last Saturday I was in Boston with some of my students for the weekend as they encountered homelessness for the fist time. Last Saturday I did a lot of things with homeless folks...and a lot of things with my students.
Last Saturday I pushed a cart around with books at a healthcare facility for homeless folks so that they would have reading material. I talked about classic books, mysteries, romance, poetry...I even picked out a few based on my own reading.

This Saturday I went to my local library in my comfortable suburb of Hartford where a bunch of wealthy / middle class white people waited in line for the fall booksale. They bought boxes of books. And as one lady in a lime green shirt pushed me to get to the non-fiction end of the room I wondered to myself "where in this irony is the disconnect"?

I bought a book about the church in Latin America but I probably won't read it for a long time because it will make me nostalgic and sad.

I miss Latin America like I miss all the moments where the little fragments of life connect...these days they seem so few and far between.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What is Love?

Love is when my father listens to my step mother recount the latest character and plot developments in her favorite soap opera just before she goes to work. Love is when my father listens to every word and doesn't need the "filler" information because he's been hearing these stories for years now. Love is when he still sends her off to work, accompanying her to the door and kissing her goodnight and never mentioning to me about how much he doesn't really care about soap operas.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pace of Life

I’ve been back in the US for 8 months now. There is still a certain amount of culture shock to be had and cognitive / emotional dissonance to go through. Most days I wake up with memories from the south…of Salvador, Guate, Mexico, Nica , Honduras and Belize in my head. I can’t really escape it. This morning I had the memory of those cream filled Chinese cookies that were sold on the corner by where I lived and how I use to buy them to surprise friends. And I also remembered what it felt like to walk from my home to the bus stop…all the exact places that I would cross the street and the people I said “hello” to on my daily routine. It was that kind of simplicity that filled my day. Choice encounters, random surprises, choreographed spontaneity…meeting with friends, riding the busses. Those are the moments that filled my existence down there. And here is just different.

About a week ago I realized why I felt so off. I realized that my pace of life changed so quickly that I had no idea what really hit me. Even though I love my job, I didn’t realize that it had begun to consume me in such a way that I have begun ignoring the simple pleasures that I once relished in just a few short months ago. As a person who values contemplation, intentionality and quality of time, my world has now changed to be chaotic and impulsive to the point of doing things because they need to get done and not concentrating on the act itself. And despite my morning and evening reflections, my daily life has little room for extra self-centering.

I’m not trying to say that my life in Central America wasn’t busy. But rather, the things I kept my life busy with were life-giving events of nourishment and self-enhancement. My life in El Salvador was full and healthy with a balance of work, play and sport…love and loss and real challenges. Here I have all of that, but the mere pace of things throws the balance off in a direction that leans more towards a certain point of no return.

In this day and age, productivity is what is encouraged…but I would rather cultivate the simplicity of soulfulness in the hopes that real productivity would become a product of a happy and healthy ME.

Paul Rusesabagina

There are times I life when exposure to greatness catches us in awe and we may not even realize the moment until it passes. When I met Rufina Amaya, I hung on every word she said. I never swayed from the conversation and the passing of those few moments has remained with me since.

Just yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to Paul Rusesabagina speak. He is the person that Hotel Rawanda is based on. He spoke about what it was like in Rawanda during that horrible time of genocide. He spoke of his own fears and his own reactions. And he talked about what is happening in Darfur now. How can genocide continue to happen? Did we not learn anything from Rawanda?

However, what struck me most about Paul is that he was so normal. If you didn’t know who he was, one might even say “average”. And really, that’s what he is. The son of a farmer, Paul is just a regular guy who listened to his heart and did something extraordinary. And despite the violence and oppression he has lived through, he still manages to have a certain hope about him.

Rufina also lived through the horrible reality of war and mass killing. She listened to the sound of her family being tortured and killed and she remained hidden so that she might tell the story one day. And even still, she had hope until the day she died (this past February).

I am struck by average people who have such conviction in their heart that they continue to tell a story of their life that the oppressors refuse to hear but struggle to silence on a daily basis. These “normal” people…campasinos, farmers, hotel workers…they are the prophets of our day. They are the ones we should be listening to because they have the experience that speaks to us without the need for words.

However, it was Paul who said last night, “I will never fight with a gun…I will fight with my best weapons…with words.”

The lives of great people have been spared so that they might speak out for those who died voiceless in the face of oppression. But as long as we turn away from the cries of injustice, we too muffle their words of hope, compassion and a real form of social justice.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Don't Polarize Me!

Al Gore just won the Nobel Peace Prize. If he runs for President again he will polarize the issue of the earth’s wellness even more than it already is. There are so many things in this world that we are forced to take a stand on. To not have an opinion or to still be discerning your personal belief is seen as weak or less credible. But there is a part of me that thinks about the importance of relationships and bridge building when it comes to taking a stand. Because in some ways, ever time I take a stand, I also begin to alienate someone else who believes differently or I sway someone prematurely.

Now I’m not saying that being opinionated is bad, but what if belief in anything was based on a continuum? What if I could change my mind over time and experience? Would I lose my credibility or would I even be taken seriously anymore?

In the last few years I have thought about this a great deal. Those who know me, understand that taking a stand on social issues is what I do. People know where my heart rests even if I am comfortable with those who oppose me. However, through the years, I have also alienated people because my beliefs were strong and at times, felt I would never budge. However, I have….on many issues.

There have been moments when I have been forced to take a stand on a particular issue in a conversation even though I wasn’t passionate about it. The mistake I have made is that I argued the point as if I had passion about it. Thus, creating the illusion that my thoughts were set I stone. I became a statistic of the polarization of the issue without ever really needing to. I never built the bridges in the relationships and never allowed myself or others to simply change their minds.

Really, I should know better.

When I was in college and realized that I was gay, I thought that all homophobic people were crazy and they instantly lost credibility in my mind. There were some people that I never even gave a second glace. I wrote them off as ignorant and never worked to understand where their thoughts were coming from. Thankfully, I learned over the years, that this kind of behavior is not in line with my larger principles of building community and loving people for where they are at. To this day, I have friends that believe quite differently than I do….and I realize that they, like myself, are in a state of becoming and understanding.

I say this only because, the same has happened to me on the reverse. I have been written off for the belief I professed and the conversation closed for my “ignorance” on a particular issue. However, what some might find surprising, is that I since changed my mind.

Today as we ponder the larger questions in life, I wonder what it would look like if we simply allowed humanity to BE in the state of becoming rather than chart the course we see fit? What if we said, I believe ______ because of my experiences…but if I had another experience, I might change? Would we build relationships and community with these kinds of statements or would be seen as lacking credibility?

For myself, I maintain the beliefs I hold today…but today is all I have and tomorrow could be very different.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


This quote is one I like and just discovered thanks to my good friend Tom. A lesson I deeply try to keep in my heart even when I feel lost. A perspective to keep close, knowing that a hardened heart is not what I seek in life.

"It is not easy to know how to keep on hoping, and we must all answer the question in our own way. It seems that everything is agains hope. But for me at least, where I see there has been great love, I see hope being born again. This is not a rational conclusion. Perhaps it is not even theological. It is simply true: love produces hope and great love produces great hope." Jon Sobrino S.J

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cross My Fingers

Today I crossed my fingers and hoped that something positive would come out of the Senate Debate over immigration. But when I crossed my fingers, I realized that it felt strange to make such motions, as if I hadn’t done that since I was a kid. Does the middle finger go over the pointer or is that switched around? I just don’t know. And does it really matter?

You see, I don’t think it’s all about luck…or wishing upon a star…or getting all your ducks in a row as if to collect friends and votes and end up smiling. Reforming a broken immigration system in the United States is an endeavor much too large to place false hope in the “luck of the draw”. Rather, true reform comes from an intrinsic understanding of placing strong value on human dignity.

As I watch the news reports of Senators voting today, I can’t help remember this February as I traced the steps that thousands of migrants make on the dangerous journey through Mexico with the unfaltering belief that they will get a better paying job in the United States. I remember, as if it were yesterday, the conversations and heart-bending stories of mothers leaving their children in countries like El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua in the hopes that they money they make in a distant land full of more opportunity than their own country, will help put food on the table for their family left behind. I wonder where the dignity is in that.

You see, to understand the Immigration Debate as it is now, one must understand the root causes of this mass exodus of people. It must be understood that a failing economy and governmental structures that support the rich leave little room for the poor. It must be understood that no one really wants to leave their family behind to get a job, but that is the decision that must be made to survive. It must be understood that such a dangerous journey through Mexico is also a product of our broken promise as a people of Faith to defend the poor at all costs.

So as I cross my fingers today with others in solidarity, I know that there are many in this world who just don’t get it quite yet and will vote the way the vote despite the fact that they don’t know the reality of WHY people are migrating in the first place. If anything good is to come of this debate…hopefully it’s a greater awareness based on education and heartfelt understanding of the strangers among us.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Lately I had been feeling sad about leaving El Salvador. I won't lie, transition really stinks. I have a lot to look forward to in my new life here in the US, but the reality of who I was in El Salvador is still very much a part of me. Most days I try finding a new voice within me to keep me sane and moving and connected...a voice that means something in this culture. The search is a challenge and the actual connection, if found, is hard to maintain.

But today there has been a ray of hope.

As it so happends, I live with a Salvadoran woman who is quite amazing. And with her heart of hospitality and kindness she brought me two pupusas and a smile.

If you have ever been to El Salvador you know how important the pupusa is to the culture of Salvador and you know how it brings people together.

I can't tell you how many wonderful conversations I had over pupusas and cokes in El Salvador. The relationships built over these inexpensive yet tasty meals. In some ways, my whole social scene was build on them.

And now, here they are, right in front of me. A piece of El Salvador right here in Massachusetts!

A ray of hope indeed! Gracias a Dios!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Oh Mexico!

Well, as the story goes, I have left El Salvador. Needless to say, I am sad. However, there are also a lot of interesting updates to come in the new future as well as some highlights from the new projects I am working on.

However, I wanted to let you know that I went to Mexico during February to travel on one of the migrant routes. I lived to tell the tale and now I am basically processing...but more will come later....Stay tuned.