Abby Kingsley ‘17
“Azul, rojo, amarillo, morado, verde, blanco, rosa, café.” I say these with uncertainty as a little girl with pigtail braids and a smile missing two front teeth points to colors on a mural. She stares up at me and nods as I say the correct word. “Ummm,” I pause, a bashful look on my face. ”ANARANJADO,” she teasingly yells in frustration. She laughs at me and I smile down on her. “Well, I never liked orange, anyway,” I think to myself. In my ten days in Mexico, I learned how to say the colors, thank you, please, and more in Spanish. All thanks to a little girl named Pati.
“Otra vez,” she says commandingly. I obey, and lift her high up in the air. She smiles and I smile. I do this so much that I feel like I’ve been lifting weights. I spin her around like a rag doll. She seems to be having so much fun, but I am worried that I’ll hurt her. She likes me to carry her places. She likes taking pictures on my phone. She likes positioning the “models” she’s taking pictures of. She likes sitting on my lap. She is a princesa donning a crown that I made out of pine needles that had been laid out on the floor.
She likes telling riddles. She speaks two languages. We hang out all day. We speak few words to each other. We laugh and smile the entire time. At the final exchanging of gifts, she holds her mother’s hand and takes her over to me as she gives me a beautifully embroidered shawl. It is one of the loveliest pieces of artesania that I’ve seen, but more than that, Pati gave it to me. In that moment I feel profoundly connected to that little girl and her mother. I loved spending time with Pati, and she will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Mickey is talking about the history of the Chiapas trip and whatnot. I listen intently. Then he says, “We used to come one year, and then the next year some kids would be gone. They had died.” I stop, and my heart sinks. I think of Pati, the wonderful little girl with so much life unlived. “But that doesn’t happen anymore,” he continues, talking about how the women explained their gratitude for the Chiapas Project: “Our children aren’t dying anymore.” When I heard that I understood the true effect of this work.
The small yet infinite effects of all those foldup tables and chairs at Oakwood, the boxes and bins in Room B, and the hours and the heart of the students and parents make me speechless. It’s not about anything big or grand. It’s in the health care, the education, the transportation that is all now available to these women by giving them the opportunity to sell their goods in a market that values them and their goods properly. In this moment everything came together for me, and I wanted to dedicate myself to doing what I could to work with these women. They are incredibly hard workers — so compassionate, so funny, and such amazing people — but more than that, they all were once little girls with pigtails and missing teeth and smiles, who laughed all day and deserve the world.