Thursday, January 19, 2012

Living Dust

I didn't put in a full day at the mission office, due to a bad meal I ate for lunch yesterday when we ran our errands.  I'm learning to be more careful in what I order, even from good restaurants.  The stomachs of the Guatemalans are tougher than my stomach.  As 4:30 came and I had my work done, I looked up to see two little boys in the front office.  Children come by often to sell gum or candies, or lighted pens.  I was just going to tell them no and take my sour stomach home to rest.

When I walked out to talk with them, they had shoe shine kits and they pointed out to me that my shoes needed a shine for 5 Quetzales.  The boys brought to mind the street beggars in Peru, and the tender moment Mike and I had years ago having a shoe shine from one of them.  As I sat down and the littlest boy started to shine my shoes, the older boy began to ask me about the beautiful paintings in our lobby.  One is of the Second Coming and another is a painting of the Savior and the rich young man.  They are incredible works of art and this little boy wanted to know if that was Jesus and if the angels announcing his Second Coming were apostles.  I asked Elder Becerra to help me explain the paintings to them.

I have a soft spot in my heart for children who love art, so I went into our supply room and got both boys copies of the art books the missionaries use to teach the stories of the scriptures.  They are copies of the fine art paintings on Temple Square in Salt Lake and the book is an inexpensive collection of some of the finest religious art.  It includes the stories of the Old Testament, New Testament and the Book of Mormon.

I was appalled that the boys applied the wax with their bare hands and told Elder Becerra that the  polish was undoubtedly toxic.  He replied that they are required by the Guatemalans who hire them to use their hands, because they think they get a better shine than with a brush.  These little kids' hands were so discolored it pained me to look at them.

Every country has children who are considered to be of no value. The Vietnamese named their unwanted children bui doi, which translates to "living dust".  I suspect these boys who are indigenous, are Guatemala's "living dust".  They were about seven and ten years of age and spoke primarily Quiche.  They knew enough Spanish to run their business. They come to Xela alone by chicken bus,, three hours each way.  When I asked how many jobs in a day were considered to be a good day's work, they answered that 25-30 Quetzales is a good day.  We had them do three pairs of shoes for us, at 5 Quetzales each so they were giddy when they left.

Having seen some of the humble homes here, I can only imagine that the gospel art book will be separated page by page and hung in many places on their walls at home to brighten it up.  When they come back the next time I would like to send something nice home for their mother.  I think I have some new friends.


  1. So sweet. It breaks my heart, but I'm so glad they got to take home pictures of the Savior.

  2. Have your new friends come back to see you? It is such a sweet and touching story :-)