By Delphine Uriburu-Wilder
1st Place Winner, 2011
Grades 7-9 Division
School Without Walls, 9th Grade
The memories may come and go, but the lesson learned will stay forever. It was a warm summer day when I met Joaquin. He was tall, had piercings and tattoos, and above all was alien to what I was accustomed to. From the moment he walked in the door, the size of his backpack indicating his presence, I knew he was staying. This would not be a short visit; on the contrary, this would be a wake-up call: a lesson I desperately needed to learn.
I showed Joaquin where I thought he would be sleeping. Little did I know-that was where I’d be sleeping-that he would get my bedroom along with the attention I had from my father. During dinner, I truly began noticing Joaquin’s impact on my life. The conversation topics were no longer all about me-but about him. As much as I hate to admit it, I grew jealous. The days after, I would shoot him mean looks, anger plainly read on my face. In the mornings, when my father would come and wake us up, I would tell Joaquin that he was not my brother, and that he did not deserve to be in my household, seeing him as an outsider to my family. The nicer he was to me, the more I despised him. When he would take care of us, when he would feed us, or when he would simply be there for us, I would “shoot” him down. I rejected him so much that my father grew tired of it and sat both Joaquin and me down for “a talk.”
The dialogue we had changed everything about me: it transformed the way I think of things, the way I treat people, and most of all, the way I live my life. Through that conversation, I discovered Joaquin’s perspective: his suffering, his pain, his hardships. At the age of three, Joaquin was abandoned by his parents. He was sent from his aunt’s house, to his uncle’s house, and to his cousin’s house. After going to almost everyone in his family, he was sent to live with his grandparents. His grandfather would abuse him every day: hitting him, punching him, kicking him, and anything to take out his anger. Joaquin grew up in an unstable and hostile environment. One day, his grandfather tied him to a chair and set the chair on fire. Barely escaping, Joaquin resorted to the only thing left for any hopeless child: living on the streets. Consequently, he did what the others in that same situation were doing with their lives-joined a gang. I learned from Joaquin that in his life what he regrets the most was becoming part of that vicious circle in which there was no ne to trust. They made him feel like he was in the right place, like they were there to support him no matter what. Little did he know they would hurt him; in fact, they would hurt him so much that he had to hide from them, hid from them at my house, with my family, and in my room.
By having that conversation with my father and Joaquin, by listening to his story, I realized both how fortunate I was and how selfish I had been. Who was I to tell this boy that he was not a part of my family? Who was I to judge him without knowing where he came from? I am and forever will be embarrassed for my actions toward Joaquin. Nevertheless, I am also grateful. By being selfish, I learned that my perspective on life was wrong. I learned that instead of wanting everything for myself, I should wan to share the thing I have with others. Growing up with kids that faced so many hardships in their lives has shaped who I am to this day and what I hope to stand for in the future.