It was a morning of indecision, centered around when to go to church, for which service and why. The neighbors and I agreed yesterday to go in the morning, but then we learned kids were getting confirmed in a special afternoon service. My niece Carmen had her heart set on the AM mass (methinks she made plans with the boyfriend to meet up there).
Our neighbor Laura came by and asked if I planned to go to the morning or afternoon service.
Carmen and I wanted to go in the morning. “OK, yeah, well, err..” says Laura (in Spanish words), “You see, Heidi (her sister) is busy right now, because…” After a few turns in the conversation, I learned my neighbors not so devout issue was: they didn’t want to go twice today.
If Heidi goes in the morning the priest will ask (really, remind her) if she plans to come to the “confirmation” service. She will be obliged to go because she has a special relationship with the church
So we all decided on the afternoon to see the neighborhood youth get confirmed, more special anyway.
Heidi’s relationship with the church is special and rather extraordinary. Heidi, now 20, is the only child in her family over the age of 13 still attending school. During the week she goes to a school in San Salvador that is run by the church and stays in quarters there. On weekends, she returns home to Jicaron to stay with her family. She is learning English there, along with other subjects, and practices with me when I visit their home.
(months pass after January 27th…)
All this time I thought my neighbor Heidi* was going to an “after” high school or finishing type school, but I learned differently. She explained to me frankly that she had dropped out of grade school when she was around 13 (and in 5th or 6th grade). She went back, thanks to the church, years later at 18.
She is attending a grade school sponsored by the church, to finish her schooling through the 9th grade. After that, she would like to complete her “Bachillerato,” or 10th-12th grade, equivalent to American “high school,” and from there, maybe University or a technical school. I applaud her efforts and think she will make it as she is a bright, attractive, and confident.
She told me that her father, who has been living in the United States for several years, does not think school is important. This is not uncommon in the country in El Salvador, I even see it in my husband’s family. The family’s mother and children Margie, Heidi, Geremy, Chris, and Laura all live in the family home, which fits everyone comfortably, though some sleep 2+ to a room. Margie (about the same age as Heidi) and Geremy (around 16) also dropped out of grade school some time ago. Geremy tells me the issue is money. My husband explains it may also be about shame; Geremy did not get further than “quinto” or fifth grade, and it’s very embarrassing to sit in a classroom of kids 3-5 years younger than you. OK, now get this: there was not enough money to pay for the textbooks and other expenses for Margie and Geremy to finish “grade” school, but…a new cinder block home was built next to their family home, with money from the father’s USA income, in which one of his sons, all of 22 years old, is now living with his wife. By Salvadoran standards, that’s living quite comfortably. Meanwhile, no one next door except for Heidi, who was miraculously saved by the church, is finishing even grade school. ???????
The church school is funded in large part by American “padrinos” who donate money. Thank God for padrinos, we need more of them. When I go back to the states and start working again, I’d like to become a padrino for kids in El Salvador, they need all the help they can get.
* to protect the identify of my neighbors, their names have been changed.