The best gift God gave me in Honduras
Written by Adam Beasley, 2017 Honduras Summer Intern
As anyone who has spent significant time in another culture will tell you, the first few weeks are painful. Everything is foreign and different. The smells and tastes of the world are unfamiliar. Every image and nuance of the surrounding world is stimulating and exciting, while being simultaneously exhausting. To deal with this overstimulation, I usually take a “dive in” approach by asking questions and exploring the meaning behind why these differences exist. But Honduras was a different challenge for one primary reason.
I couldn’t connect here.
Spanish was an infinitely high wall in front of me, hiding connection, intimacy, meaning, and purpose that lay on the other side. Thousands of words and hundreds of grammar rules barring me from any form of a lasting bond. I was trapped and helpless, locked in a cage of thought, emotion, compassion, and self-directed anger. While groups of American missionaries were frequently present and the few English speaking staff here rank among the most caring individuals God has ever created, my everyday interactions, and thus my desires for connections, were consumed by a different group.
The twenty construction workers building an addition to my store walked past me countless times each day. Often silent, we both rarely made eye contact. I’m unsure of their reasons, but I know mine. Did I fear failure? Yes. Probably more than I care to admit. But the primary driver of my diversion was shame, disappointment, and frustration. How many times could I say “Hola, como esta?” without going insane? Before opening my mouth, I knew the rest of the conversation. He would respond “bien bien. Y Tu?” To which I would answer, “bien, gracias” and then proceed to spend 30 seconds searching awkwardly for another meaningful sentence before giving up and walking away. I’m terrible at small talk in English so this was my Hell, and I felt as if I had no one to blame but myself.
I’m sure at this point you are connecting the title to my crescendoing monologue of pain and saying “AHA! I know where this is going! After hard work and dedication, Adam finally learned Spanish, befriended the construction workers, and created lifelong friends. They spent the remaining days having rich, meaningful conversations as they laughed about their cultural differences.”
I did work relentlessly at my Spanish and saw meaningful progress from my efforts. Yet, there is something about a group of 20 rural, natives speaking slang and laughing that is hilariously impossible for my brain to comprehend. I will leave Honduras knowing little about my new friends. Yet, I will leave with friends nonetheless.
As I sat in my little prison of teen-angst over my inability to ask about their pets or favorite sports teams (are those normal small talk conversation topics? Honestly guys, I need help), I opened my eyes and started to observe their interactions and daily rituals. Everyday they worked from 8:30-12:00, disappeared for an hour, and then returned, slightly louder and more joyful, to the construction site until 5:00. During my lunch break one day, I walked the area searching for them.
As I made my way down the hill towards the office buildings, I began to hear shouting and laughter. Turning the corner, I saw a cow pasture, turned soccer field with 20 joyful men running from end to end. There it was. My opportunity for connection. I was obviously far better at soccer than Spanish, having received three years of intensive skill training from my father from the ages of 4-6. Heck in three years, I even managed to win one whole game. (Side note: the win was the final game of my illustrious three-year soccer career, ending with my dad starting a dog pile of six-year-olds out of pure, uncontrollable happiness from the fact that we could both walk into the sunset and retire from soccer forever as winners.) So yea, I was terrible at that too, but at least I could run in a straight line, which was more than I could say for my Spanish skills.
I quickly developed a few nicknames (Beckham, Sergio Ramos, *insert random white guy with long hair here*), but besides that, the games started slowly for me. They didn’t trust me to do throw-ins. They required that I play defense. I got picked last every day. All pretty standard stuff for the outsider. But as the summer progressed, the environment changed. They passed me the ball more, encouraged me through my errors, and laughed at my language-neutral shouting. With ten games left in my summer, we had kicked, run, and laughed a lot, but I didn’t feel as if we were friends yet. Something was still missing. I needed to score a goal.
I’m not sure how to explain it besides to say that scoring felt like a rite of passage. Like I would never fully be accepted unless I was able to put the ball into the back of the net. Yea, it sounds dumb and kind of vain, but it was important to me.
And it began to be important to them.
Slowly, they began to put me in scoring positions by moving me up for corners and encouraging me to play more midfield. Both teams would point and yell as I neared the opposing goal, encouraging my teammates to pass it to me. Several opportunities went disappointingly unrealized. Then, following an in-the-box hand ball by the opposing team, they called for me to take the penalty kick. Let me take a slight detour to highlight the significance of this sacrificial action. These games were serious. Winning meant a full day of unlimited Spanish smack-talk and bragging rights. And this penalty was an opportunity to tie a 3-4 game with minimal time left before everyone had to return to work. My team wanted to score and tie desperately, but they wanted me to score more.
Touched, excited, and nervous, I approached the ball. Aiming slightly right, I swung my leg forward, connected with the call, and watched it fly. The ball rocketed (okay maybe more like crawled, but you get the point of the imagery) through the air and collided with the top crossbar, ricocheting into the field.
I had missed.
For several days after my miss the guys, eager for my next opportunity, laughed and made me practice penalties. Taking two or three per day, I embraced the fact that my failure had brought a great deal of laughter, which was bonding us together. I still desperately wanted a full initiation, but I was content to joke about my bad feet and poorly practice penalties.
Then out nowhere, it happened.
We were down 1-0 in the middle of the game. The ball, deflected by the goalie, went out of bounds, and the guys pushed me into the box for the ensuing corner kick. A perfectly placed corner connected with the left side of my head, sending the ball through the middle of the goal. The following scene will forever live branded on my heart. Both teams shouting “Golaso! Golaso!” Cheers and comments from the accountants in the stands who had come down to watch the action. High fives from every person on the field. Smiles. Joy. Time moved slowly and my heart beat quickly.
God, what a treasure that goal was to me. This summer has been amazing. I’ve made a tangible business impact, met interesting people, and read fascinating books. But dang it has been hard. I’ve felt dumb, helpless, and out of control more times in the past two months than in the rest of my life combined. Scoring a legitimate goal off a corner felt like God bandaging my sores as He said, “Don’t worry. I’ll be there to do the same when you feel this way at Bain. And then I’ll be there again when you fail as a husband. And again as a father. I promise that I will work all things for your good because you love me. Sometimes that means two months of painful growth. Other times it includes two months of wonderful quiet time with me. And occasionally it’ll be a seemingly insignificant goal. But it will always be good.”