While living in the house, Ronal was unable to shine shoes due to the house’s distance from town. Therefore, every Friday after school, he headed to Sosua, a neighboring city that supposedly has better shoe shining business. He slept in a broken down house there with another group of boys, just like he had done in Puerto Plata. He then came home on Sunday evenings with a few hundred pesos. He was, and still is, very good about saving his money. Every now and then he spent money to buy packets of powdered juice, ice, and a can of milk to make juice for everyone. And sometimes he bought the needed ingredients to make and share fried eggs with flour, (flour to make the eggs bigger, he said), and bread.
One Sunday evening, Ronal returned from Sosua later than normal. His face was swollen and his lip had been bleeding. He had gotten in a taxi where he normally did to come home. They took him a good distance further, beat him up, stole 1,000 pesos he had with him, then left him on the side of the road. I can’t remember why we did not report that to the police. It was likely because we didn’t think they would do anything. He started going to Sosua less often after that.
Ti Ronal’s favorite subject in school is math! Met Yves, the math teacher, is his role model. He always has chalk in his pocket – sometimes chalk he has purchased and other times the little stub that remains from a long stick that a teacher has thrown out. He uses the chalk to do math on chalkboards after school hours. He also often does math on wooden table tops, wooden doors, or the cement floor. It was not uncommon to find the remains of Ti Ronal’s math problems in any of these places. I just tried to remind him to keep it on paper but was uncomfortable about raising my voice with him as I was quick to do with younger boys who had also been in the house longer than Ti Ronal. His presence is very non-judgmental. I remember raising my voice with him once about something that I cannot remember. I then further explained why I had done that, what I meant, and asked, “Are you mad at me?” I was very used to other boys being mad at me.
He replied with a genuine, “No,” and added, “I’m never mad at you.” I thanked him.
He talked about his mother often and still does. It’s obvious that he adored her. That year, he wanted to go to Haiti during summer vacation in order to see her and was saving up money to do so. He is the oldest of her eight children, a few of whom have past away and a few of whom he says were adopted by French people and are now in France. He once said that the only person he ever stole from was his father. After hearing this, I let him know that I didn’t understand why. He explained that his father, who was married to his mother and is the father of all of her children, had other women. Ronal, therefore, used to steal money from his father and give it to his mother so that his mother could receive a bigger portion of the money that was apparently allocated to other women as well.
One day, his father called my cell phone. I was surprised but found out that a boy I had recently sent to Haiti had given him the number. I was in the city teaching English at the time. I later gave Ronal the message and bought a phone card so that he could call his dad. I sat by him as he called. He said hello, then shortly into the conversation, became obviously sad.
“When did my mom die?” he asked. He listened, said yes a few times, then hung up. He announced to those of us in the area that his mom had died, then went and laid on his bed with his face hidden. I went and stood by his bed, the upper bunk, and sang for awhile, then asked him if he wanted to go to Haiti. He said that the only person he wanted to see in Haiti was his mom but she’s dead. Dunel, our paid staff at the time, came in and sang with me, then prayed. We then left him for the night.
Ronal was very somber for the next few days, then back to normal. He often talks about his mother. During Bible study or any conversations about God, he often seems to understand and defend the nature of God as all-loving and has, from my point of view, an accurate understanding of love: comforting, disciplining, supportive, guiding, patient, strong, angry at times, and good. He is not hesitant to share that he learned this love from his mother.
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