I was going through old photos and mementos and came across something that I’d written many years ago. You know how sometimes you write something and then go back to it later and cringe? Well, not this time. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed revisiting it:
Indio, California is about 30 miles away from its glamorous neighbor, Palm Springs.
But 30 miles might just as well be 3,000 miles, as the two cities have little more in common than sunshine and hot summer days. And decades ago, Indio hosted a transient population. Migrant workers came into town to pick local crops and the railroad running along the edge of town brought in the last of a dying breed—the American Hobo.
During Kindergarten and first grade, I would spend many afternoons at the home of my Abuelita (Spanish for little grandmother). My cousin, Anna, and I would walk the block together from Van Buren Elementary to my Abuelita’s house. Though my Abuelita has been gone for many years, she is the woman who is at the center of a patchwork of memories which linger in my mind and soul. She came from Mexico and never fully adapted to the culture or language of the United States. Yet, I think she was really quite comfortable in Indio, for it provided a simple life.
I have memories of my Abuelita offering food to the hobos who would come into the neighborhood. I remember being intrigued by the fact that this slight, old woman would open her front gate and the shelter of her front porch to those hungry, dusty hobos. She could only afford to offer a bologna sandwich and a heart of hope. I remember her telling me that the reason she fed the needy was because one could never tell if the outstretched hand was that of Jesus. He, after all, had so often relied upon the goodness of others while here on earth.
I think back upon seeing the dirty hands of the hobos, calloused and browned by the sun, in contrast to the stark whiteness of the Wonderbread sandwiches they held. I know that not a single one of my Abuelita’s front porch diners was Jesus, yet they gave her a visit of faith. Through them, my Abuelita showed me her belief in the goodness of man and the conviction of her faith.
Has this patchwork memory made a significant impact on my life? Only in the aspect that it is a memory which continues to return to me. I remain cynical and skeptical. I don’t go to church or carry much of a religious conviction. I walk briskly past an outstretched hand. I tend to dismiss the “will work for food” signs as really meaning “will beg for money.” Yet, time and again, my Abuelita’s patchwork comes back to me.
Perhaps in time, I will inherit more than my Abuelita’s dimples and brown eyes. For now, I am content to marvel in the memory of her faith and goodness. I believe that, in a way, Jesus really did sit on my Abuelita’s porch and that He did like bologna sandwiches.