And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”-Mark 1:7-8
Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the screen. We were waiting anxiously for our numbers to appear. All we have had so far were numbers. We started this process with Dreyson a week ago. He just turned 18 and wanted to have all his documents. You are nobody in this society unless you have your documents. Many children and teens are buried in unmarked graves because they did not have a piece of paper with them when they met their unfortunate end. Now they are forgotten in death as they were in life. However, it was not death that inspired Dreyson to get his documents. He wanted to embrace life. He wanted to change his story. He thought that the first step is to be recognized officially by the government that he is someone. He asked our help to do it. It had brought us here to this cold lifeless room waiting for his number which finally appeared on the screen. I walked with Dreyson to the counter and got him settled. Then I went back to our seat and waited.
It is hard to believe that this young teenager is legally an adult. He still looks and acts like a child. He is not childish but he is not an adult. We met him when he was 14. He was extremely shy and insecure. He wanted me to know his name and the next day he asked me if I remembered it. This was our first contact. Over the years, our conversations with him were quite erratic. He was hardly sober. He sniffed lots of paint thinner and whatever substance that was available to him. Despite this, we still managed to spend some quality time with him whenever there was an opportunity. Recently, he had a conversation with someone from a church and the person challenged him to take baby steps to leave the streets. He took the advice to heart. He asked for our help to navigate through the bureaucratic nightmare to get all his documents. This was his first step.
We did need to wait long this time. Dreyson came up to us and told us that he was done. He is registered now. However, he did not have any documents in his hand. He had another slip of paper with another number instead. He asked us to keep it for him. It said that his documents will be ready in 12 days. We have to wait again.
On our walk back, Dreyson shared his dreams with us. He said that he wants to become an interstate bus driver. He liked to idea of driving and traveling to different cities. His father had taken them across the country before. It was perhaps the fondest memory he has of his time with his father. They hitchhiked for the most part. Ever since then he was always interested in traveling. We had many conversations together about our travels. It was wonderful to hear from a young man who hardly shared any of his dreams before. He asked us what he needed to become a commercial driver. He wants to take the necessary steps to achieve his goal. He said that he did not want to continue living in the streets for the rest of his life. He wants something different. I am glad that he is thinking along this line and we felt especially honored that he wants to include us in his journey towards a new beginning. He also told us that he had recently wrote a letter and wanted to show it to us. It was scribbled on a stained paper but it was one of the most beautiful things written by a teenager living in the streets. It was a letter to his mother.
Dreyson came to the streets with his younger brother, Danyel. I wrote about the latter before. He suffered an accident and broke his leg. We visited him in the hospital during this time. Unfortunately, his mother only came to see her son after five days. Initially we were mad at her. Then she finally came. She hardly hugged him. She did not even ask anything about the accident. Throughout her time with her son, she appeared to be a little distant. However, our initial anger subsided when we met her. Unloved and neglected people can also have children. It was obvious that she had never received love in her life. It was also clear that she was giving all she had to her children even though it wasn’t much.
In his letter, Dreyson wrote that he was sorry that he and Danyel are living in the streets. He said that she deserved better than this. He did not want her to worry about them. He wanted her to know that he appreciated her. He thought that she was a wonderful person. He cherished her embrace and affections. He wanted her to know that these things were important to him. The letter went to describe a mother that was nothing like the woman we met. He did not want too much from his mother. He just wanted her hugs and affection.
Dreyson had spent two years straight without going home even for the holidays. I remembered asking him if he missed his home at that time. He did not say anything. His father only came looking for him after two years. Since then, he would try to go home for a few days but he always returns to the streets almost immediately. He goes home looking for something that perhaps does not exist. It doesn’t take him long to realize this and it drives him back to the streets. Now, he wants to be someone in the world; a bus driver has a place in society. He wants a place in this world. It is not a coincidence that he wrote a letter to his mother at this precise moment. He is feeling hopeful. He wants to connected to the first person who gave him the sensations of being loved. He wants to be loved and recognized.
John said, in the gospel verse quoted above, that Jesus will baptize us with the Spirit whereas he can only baptize with water. I have read this verse a hundred times before but listening to Dreyson’s letter has given me a fresh understanding of John’s proclamation. Dreyson is waiting for several things in his life. His documents, his dreams of becoming a driver and his desire to leave the streets; all these things are attainable if he is willing to wait for them. They might introduce minor changes in his life. He might leave the streets. This is a strong possibility in his case. One day, he might have a steady income. He might be financially and physically better than he is presently. It is possible to achieve these things without any reliance on God. We don’t need the gospel for these things.
The people who came to John the Baptizer were most likely better off than Dreyson in terms of wealth and security. Yet, they were not satisfied with their lives. They wanted something more. In this sense, Dreyson has something in common with them. His letter to his mother revealed something more profound about Dreyson. Something that John the Baptizer saw in those coming to him. They were seeking for something more substantial. He knew that he couldn’t give them what they needed. We cannot give Dreyson what he truly needs. He wants to be connected in a profound manner with Life in its fullness. The best way he could describe what he wants is to use the symbolic gesture of the embrace of his mother. It is an image of being united with Love. His mother is not capable of giving what Dreyson yearns for. Neither are we. The people who came to John the Baptizer came with the same expectation. They wanted to be connected with Love in a way that was beyond what John could provide. However, there is hope. This yearning is not something that cannot be satisfied. It prepares us to look for the only One who can touch us in our innermost being. Our task is to follow John’s example. We are the ones who help Dreyson and anyone else that God puts in our path to see this Hope that is coming. We cannot make it happen. It is not a formula or a doctrine that Dreyson desires to encounter. He wants to encounter the embrace of Love. We can only prepare him by letting him know that it is possible to encounter Life in its fullness. John baptized with water. It is symbol of purification. It is an act of helping people discern the true source of life. We will give Dreyson help with his documents and whatever help we can provide to guide him in discerning that true Love is found in the One who can nourish our souls with the Love that gives us the zeal for Life.