"In between two shores" since returning from Honduras after almost two years as a teacher and caregiver for Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, Douglas Orofino begins serving this fall as Choir Director at Chief Umtuch Middle School in Battle Ground, WA. Read how he is trying to take the language, mindset and heart-set he learned in Honduras and integrate it into his life in the northwest.
"Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido," writes poet Pablo Neruda in his native tongue. "My soul is not at peace with having lost her." There is something I can't tell people, but want them to know. Whenever I see a picture of one my hijos or see photos of my querido Rancho Santa Fe this is the verse that resonates within me like a hymn. "My soul is not at peace with having lost you." Of course, loss isn't exactly what has happened, is it? I told everyone when I left, "Les llevaré para siempre en mi corazón, o sea I will always carry you in my heart." Then why do I feel empty. Why do I lament, "I am not at peace with having lost you."
In February, I came home from the Rancho Santa Fe casa/hogar (better known as an orphanage) where I spent a year-and-a-half working with and alongside a gaggle of the most amazing and frustrating kids as a teacher, tutor and caregiver. Since my return to the States, I have been set adrift from my mooring. I am in limbo, in-between two shores. I am the same, yet fundamentally I am different. I am neither here, in the United States, nor there, Honduras. Part of me resides in each place I learned to call home. Between these two shores I drift. Able to see each in its flawed beauty; unable to hold onto both at the same time. Sometimes in the quiet when no one else is listening I overflow with anger, "Why God. Why is it so hard to move between these two places? How can I honor them both? How can I keep one without losing the other?" The juxtaposition between these two "worlds" so different that society has seen fit to number them - first and third - weighs upon me. The injustice of it all makes me want to cry out, "Señor, ten piedad. Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy." Why is our world so different, so divided? Why are some nations thriving while others are desperately trying to just stay afloat? How can we change this? These are the questions that swell around me, and in this current I reside, unsure if I have come home or left it. Wanting to be moored to two distinct places, two shores. Unwilling to let one go for the other.
A lot of people have a schema about what is supposed to happen when one has a life-movement (I don't like the word experience) such as I have had. Sometimes I get the feeling I don't fit in that schema... And for that I say "Gracias a Dios." So. How did I even get here? When did I become this person? While in Honduras NPH gave me something I wasn't expecting. It gave me family. NPH works hard to give their children a place to call home and people to call their own. It may not be a typical family, but it bears the same hallmarks: responsibility, work, play, relationships, frustration, unconditional love... frustration. It is an extended family of people who are there for each other. Along with a sense of family NPH gave me something else I wasn't expecting. It gave me love. Not love because of what I did, or because I came to "help." For my niños it was simpler than that. We played together, we ate together, we went to church together. At night time I told them stories, sang them songs, checked for monsters under the bed and rocked them to sleep. Before school I did their hair and read them books. We were family. This was a paradigm shift. Where before Honduras I saw myself as an older brother, an eldest son, and "family" was a contained, genetically linked group of people. Now, post Honduras my definition of family is wider, it has to be, because there are a lot people it needs to fit. I came back seeing myself not just belonging to my ‘blood relatives'. I belonged to dozens of hijos e hijas, children I don't ever want to stop loving or thinking about. So. This is why I can't go home. I can't choose my shore. I don't want to be just here or just there. There is a part of me that is bigger than either one of these two places.
I have not figured out how to move from the idea of, "My soul is not at peace with having lost you," to the reality of my new personhood with two homes. I know I have not figured out how to take what I lived in Honduras and bring it forward. In the words of a returning missionary, "My spirit has not caught up to me yet." While I don't know where my life is going, I do know that my resilience, my hope, lies in becoming a bridge between what I have always known and what I now know, between the two places I call home, between the two shores.
make of my hands a bridge
they have played expensive pianos
they have plucked lice from little girls' hair
make of my feet a bridge
they have walked on trash
in sand the have been buried, warm
make of my eyes a bridge
for they have beheld palaces
and they have seen a coffin, far too small
make of my heart a bridge
it has loved wealth and music
for love of niños it has been broken
make of me, a bridge
stretch me across the river
that i might not choose
but be of both shores