I am continually amazed how spending time with the workers at the Day Worker Center challenges me to rethink my opinions and see things in a new light.
For example, let’s take a look at one young man I’ll call Ricardo. He looks like one of those tough guys with his beanie and hoodie covering part of his face. He tends to have headphones in most of the time, and generally looks like someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. But what some people don’t know about Ricardo is that he’s very artistic. He’s been accepted into art school and would like to go if they give him financial aid. I caught a glimpse of him the other day helping some of the kids who come to the center with art projects. He knows how to fold beautiful paper flowers, and evidence of his works lies concealed in small corners or tiny vases around the center.
Or how could I forget how Edy, when I told him I didn’t know how to dance, taught me cumbia there on the spot. “Es facil,” he told me. And it turned out that it was easy. We danced to the music on someone’s portable speakers, much to the amusement of those around us.
Lastly, I think of Andres, a handyman who does all kinds of labor. But he also helps with sewing projects. One volunteer named Naomi comes in every so often to help orchestrate art projects in general; the latest thing has been helping sew patches for a beautiful quilt. The patches themselves are quite impressive, but the quilt as a whole is stunning. Andres was talking about how he learned some English from a friend, but that it still took a lot of effort for him to advance. I told him that it just took practice and that he would get it eventually. When the conversation eventually turned back to the current project, he asked me if I sew. I told him I didn’t. “Por que?” he asked me. Lots of reasons, but the main one was that I just didn’t like it, it took too much time, and I get frustrated.
“It just takes practice. Practice and you’ll get it eventually.” Who knew that I would get my words thrown back at me?