#42 Big Hearts and Even Bigger Smiles

Many people I’ve met living in San Carlos, Mexico are kind hearted, gracious, generous souls. Last Saturday that was evidenced by a very sweet act of kindness. My friend, a former firefighter from New Mexico, Kerry, sparked a humble idea that he put into action. His actions resulted in something very special for others. 

About a month ago Kerry sent me a text saying he wanted to, “Do something for the town that had given him so much.” He didn’t know what that something was at the time but wrangled me in as his brainstorming partner. As in other parts of the world, families who work hard for very little have had additional challenges this past year. Annual San Carlos events that usually brought extra joy to families in need were canceled in 2020.  This added an extra “sting” to young children. For example, the local school in the Ranchitos neighborhood hosts an annual holiday party for the children in December but this year a party style celebration just was not a possibility. After discussing several options on how to give back to a community that had given Kerry so much a decision was made. The idea was intended to, “Bring smiles to the faces of children.”

Awesome deals on children’s’ flip flops from Dollar Tree. Cute styles for all kids.

Enter…Operation Let’s Give Them Something to Smile About. It doesn’t take much to bring delight to young kids so with a few donations from friends and family we were off and running. We were banking on flip flops, kites and playground balls igniting those grins. A couple of days of online research and placement of orders to Dollar Tree, Oriental Trading and Bulk Balls Wholesale was all it took. Well, that and a 12 hour, fun filled, road trip by Kerry and his buddy across the border to collect the treasures from my PO Box in Tucson. 

Incredible playground balls with texture and bright colors. These were a hit. Any extras…dodgeball tournament?

We were eager to see the contents of the containers we assumed would create happiness. Opening the boxes pulled my mind back to the excitement of watching my own girls dig into boxed surprises on birthdays and Christmas. Inside we found kites of red, green and blue adorned with goofy smiling faces which made us laugh. “They’re going to love these!” The flip flops covered with either alligators, mermaids, pineapples, unicorns, dinosaurs or flamingos virtually exploded from the boxes. “These are so cute!” Ninety-six brightly colored, deflated, rubber playground balls put the thrill over the top. Kerry quickly filled one to check out the bounceability. “Perfect!” I meticulously sorted flip flops by size and style while he assembled a kite. The two of us were like kids in a toy shop.

Signs posted in both languages. Lesson learned moving forward, we only need español.

The idea really began to come together when Alex, owner of the Colibri restaurant, offered his outdoor space for our distribution. He even had darling posters printed in both Spanish and English to hang in various locations around town to inform the Ranchitos community. Details of the event were sent to the weekly What’s Up San Carlos e-newsletter and shared with teachers from the primary school. The message was getting out, now we just needed the children.

Kerry and I setting up our wares at Colibri. Yes, I wore a mask. It’s ONLY off for the photo.

Saturday, February 13th, the day we deemed, “Kid Day”, arrived. Alex cleared a space, provided a table, chairs and a tent to shield us from the February sunshine. Kerry and I loaded boxes and bags into our vehicles and headed toward Colibri where we carefully arranged the treasures for quick, safe dispersion. Now we just had to wait…anticipating delivering smiles to children we hoped would show.

It did not take long. About 45 minutes before the official opening time we had our first “customers”. A well known family with origins from Oaxaca, Mexico approached the table. We easily recognized the adult family member as Lupita, the woman who walks from table to table selling braided bracelets, woven baskets, beaded trinkets, and stone figurines to restaurant guests. She arrived with two darling little girls and a handsome young boy. We determined shoe sizes with, “Small, medium or large?” ¿chico, mediano o grande? holding flip flops up to their feet. Style was decided by asking, “Which one do you like?” ¿cuál te gusta? Next kites were chosen by color with the questioning phrase, “Red, green or blue?” ¿rojo, verde o azul?  The final step was handing off playground balls after a simple, “What color do you like?” ¿que color te gusta?. Even behind their face masks we could see their beaming smiles.

At one-o’clock, town dog groomer and dance teacher, Beto, joined our mission. His bilingual ability was a true bonus but his animated personality brought an elevated level of excitement. He quickly assembled a kite and attempted to fly it over the space with help from Alex. Looking back, I am certain Beto was the oldest and largest kid we saw at “Kids Day”.

About 25 families made their way to the location. Some walked there pushing strollers of little ones while others arrived by car. One mega group clamored out of the back of a pickup truck loaded with extended family. For two hours we watched families sheepishly approach only to be enthusiastically waved toward the table of goodies. Watching the tiny bright eyes decide between mermaid or dinosaur flip flops brought smiles. Older children, too large for the flip flops were not turned away, instead they left holding kites and bouncing balls. A few elderly women who happened to have very tiny feet were supplied with their own pairs of pink, pineapple flips flops. There was something for everyone.

Closing up at the end of the day, Kerry was already planning the next mission. What should it be? Shoes for a fishing village? Assistance to a family with a special needs child? A collection of coats for next winter? There are always gaps to fill when you look at the parts of a community that create the whole. When you are fortunate in life, it’s nice to have the opportunity to give back. Operation Let’s Give Them Something to Smile About was a success. I’m not certain who smiled more, us or the kids, but in the long run…does that really matter?

February 16, 2020

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags….Perhaps, it means a little bit more.”

The Grinch…slightly modified for this entry

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