By Travis Giauque
We approached the front entry of the home, cautiously and unsure about our association with the residence that lived at this address. We looked at each other and decided to follow our escort inside, ducking under the entrance way header. Upon entering we noticed the tin roof – tattered and drooping with puncture wounds throughout as we continued to crouch in attempts to keep our heads from scraping along its sharp edges. It was apparent that the dirt floor had been formed in a manner so that it doubled as an escape for the unwanted rain that found itself through the roof. We sat in the remains of an old, weather-worn, wood bench that sat about eight inches above the ground and in a gathering room totaling about thirty square feet. Across from us was a supportive and substantial wall constructed of large, red, clay bricks with concrete mortar oozing between the seams, that was located a mere five feet from the next adjacent wall.
As we continued to notice the surroundings of the home, our escort and friend returned from a back room accompanied by a young lady by the name of Gabriela. Gabriela had long, dark, well-kept hair that framed the features of her face, and wore a pale-yellow, slightly stained shirt, but well-kept nonetheless. Upon our introduction, Gabriela smiled with a warmth and appreciation in her eyes that was uncommon among many others that I had known, that seemed to radiate from her entire person.
Our visit with Gabriela began and she described the history of her family, herself, and their circumstances. Gabriela was the second oldest of six siblings; the oldest being twenty-two years old and the youngest around six. Their father, about two years prior, was overcome by the chains of alcohol and family responsibilities, and never returned to them after leaving for work. Gabriela’s mother attempted to makes ends meet, keep food on the table, and pay for their existence for an additional year. Upon continually being delinquent on their house payments, the mother left, without telling any of her children that the house could not be paid for. The week following the loss of their mother, Gabriela’s uncle came to the house seeking for payment of the house. Gabriela and her older sister explained their situation, but found no mercy in the sight of their uncle. He demanded that they leave the house so that he could make room for his own home on the same property.
Not knowing what to do or where to go, Gabriela and her siblings were startled in the very early hours one morning as their walls began to shake and tremble. Their uncle was tearing down the remains of their old home while they were inside. With the screams of younger siblings, they ran into the dark hours of the morning and watched their home torn down by their uncle, with the intent to expand his personal residence into the property. Later, Gabriela and her siblings were permitted to build on the remaining land adjacent to her uncle’s home. The large, red, clay brick wall as describe earlier was an exterior wall of their uncle’s home.
As time continued, rumors filled the streets about Gabriela and their older sister, claiming that they were so young, too young, to have so many little kids living with them.
“It must be”, said the words of neighbors, “that they are living off their income of prostitution”. How else would one explain their meager existence and the mouths of many to feed?
I came to know Gabriela and her family for who they truly are. And they are true beacons of light, finding the positive and good in any situation. They had been abandoned by parents, sold out by relatives, and had their reputations slandered by the community. Yet, Gabriela and her family smiled knowing that they were family, had been protected from above, and new the best was still to come.
As I find myself in situations in life, thinking that I have it hard, or thoughts of “I don’t think I can overcome this”, images of Gabriela, her story, and her surroundings come to my mind. I recall her smile and her appreciation for all that she did have, and I realize that I, too, have much to be grateful for, despite what may currently be happening in my life. Gabriela had every right to be discouraged and depressed, but she chose to recognize how she was currently blessed.
The Law of Relativity states, “Your situation is not fundamentally good or bad until you compare it to something else”. As we go through life, we will encounter difficult situations, perhaps ones we don’t desire. However, the law of relativity teaches us that as we compare our situations to ones that are less desirable, we begin to recognize the good that still remains in our current situation. This thought process leads one to gratitude for all that they do have, and empowers them to move forward towards better, more favorable outcomes. Thus was the situation with Gabriela, and thus it is with me when I recall Gabriela’s history.