Have you ever been one of those people who felt they were on the outside looking in? Seeing others having a great time and wishing you were a part of their picture. Someone with a quiet longing but could never get yourself to reach out for help? Luis was one of these people I encountered on my second trip to the Dominican Republic.
My skate crew and I were skating in a local plaza in the town center of Barahona. He excitedly looked onward at us performing our tricks down a set of stairs. As I skated past him, I could tell he had something he wanted to say but couldn’t get himself to do so.
I’ve always gravitated towards these kinds of people. Mostly because I relate to him. I grew up being that kid in school; Not knowing where I fit in or where I belong, feeling like I had nothing worthwhile to contribute. Because of this, I stayed isolated and had extremely low self-esteem. All I wanted was a friend or someone to take interest in me. Today, one motivating thought I have is to be the friend I wish someone would be for me.
Now back to Luis.
Upon landing a trick down the stairs, I rolled over to this man sitting on a bench and introduced myself. We were able to talk about Jesus and then he asked me to pray for him. I was about to go back to skating when he asked me if we had any food for him because he hadn’t eaten anything for a while. At once, everyone on the team banded together, diving into their backpacks to find any food and waters we had to bless the stranger-turned friend with.
After hooking our buddy up with crackers, fruit snacks, and waters, we went back to cruising around the plaza. But before we bounced, Luis attempted to get my attention one more time. He asked me if I had any clothes for him…
The shirt he wore was super worn out, dirty, and very ragged. It was definitely a church shirt because it was so “hole-y” . I didn’t have any extra shirts on me, just the shirt on my back- which was my favorite shirt I brought with me on this trip. That’s when I remembered what the book of James says:
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” ~ James 2:15-17
He kept pointing to my shirt I was wearing and telling me he liked it so much. With no more hesitation, I took off my favorite shirt and handed it over to him.
Tears welled up in his eyes with this act of love. I got to pray one more time for my brother and thank God for his life, reminding Luis how God’s love for him was so strong; How he was not forgotten or abandoned. He was no longer on the outside looking in, but he was part of a bigger family now.
As we left, I looked back at the plaza and saw that Luis wasted no time at all putting on his new shirt, smiling from ear to ear. Beaming with thankfulness, he waved goodbye to us. What may seem simple and little to us, could mean everything to someone else.
When I think of the Dominican Republic, I will always remember Luis.