This is a saying that I have kind of made up for our team here. For all you none Spanish speaking people, or those who don’t want to use Google Translate, it means “Hugs and Ladders.” Yes its kind of weird and totally unrelated. Well not here. And if you keep reading, it probably has some meaning in your lives too.
Well, we all know what a hug is, right? or do we? My wife says a real hug last 20 seconds. Do it! I dare you! 20 seconds of having both arms wrapped around another person. For guys its may be even harder. For our boys here, its sure hard. But for them its not the 20 seconds, its the act of physically showing another person affection that isn’t your mom or Dad. We will get back to the Arazos later.
An Escalera in English is a ladder. Well for those athletes reading this, you know what an ladder is. Here its running from one end of the soccer field to the other, 10 times in under 2 min. Yeah it hurts. We use this exercise for training and for discipline if the boys are late, or absent the previous day or for behavior issues. If you don’t do the ladder under 2 min, the next ladder is 1 min 50 seconds and so on and so on. By the 2nd or third round the boy finds a magical reserve of energy and makes it.
But why did I make this a sort of slogan for us. Because it is two things that are so unrelated that they cant possibly have anything in common, well they do. Hugs show love, give love, receive love. Hugs put your emotions on your sleeve for others to see and others to feel. They make you better. Your heart, your relationships, your soul. Running ladders do the same. But its through pain. When the boys run for being late to academy, its shows that they are apart of a place bigger than just them. They have people that want them here, they have a place just for them to put there emotions on their sleeves and be loved. When they run ladders for discipline, it to show them that life has consequences. Hard consequences. Those consequences are much harder than running ladders. We teach them that now so that we can point it out, because we love them, we won’t them to learn now.
For our boys, hugs are hard to give and to receive. Opening up your heart and your arms to hold someone else is hard. For some, it doesn’t happen all that often, maybe not at all. The boys also don’t want to be embarrassed. This is big here. I understand it all to well growing up and living in the South. For the boys here, what people see or think of you is more important than how things truly are. Especially when things are not going well. Boys here have parents that cant feed them. Parents that don’t care where or what their kid is doing. A mom dying of AIDS. A father who’s left his family and our little Rino who cant admit he is not coming back and so on and so on. A hug here breaks the chain. It is out of the norm, it is “raro” (weird in Spanish). But when you give them one, just when they needed it. There face glows, hearts meant and they will take a deep breath while in your arms and for a minute you feel them let go of whatever it is that they are holding on to.
Now ladders are painful. No one truly likes them. No one says, “thanks for that!” But through running and pain, God is showing me that growing also takes place. When we first started we had boys walk off the field if they had to run a ladder. Their anger was so strong they would rather run away than deal with it. This showed us that dealing with problems for these boys was going to be something that we had to teach. We would have boys that were fast during a game or during a drill not try during escaleras. This showed us that they would try but only when they wanted to, when there was a direct immediate benefit in it for them. Now the boys that are still here take escaleras as a part of life here. They know that they are both good and bad.
Hugs and Escaleras are helping bring to the surface opportunities to discover the true hearts of these boys. Joy and pain are not exclusive to each other. If you think they are go to any gym and see that losing 50 pounds is painful during and joyful when you have accomplished it. Hugs and ladders in life are physical ways that we put ourselves out there into the world and show others who we are. Will we take the opportunity to hug, I mean really hold someone that needs it. Will we be the type of people that appreciates a hug from someone. Really feel the love of another person for 20 seconds and just let whatever burden we have go and be in the arms of someone else. Do the escaleras in our lives make us run away and hide. Do we pull back and just get through it? Or do we see them as a part of life, an opportunity to grow?
Here we want our boys to know that Jesus provides both to each of us. He gives us hugs and he gives us escaleras. He is full of love and discipline. He is trying to help each of us grow in ways that only hugs and escaleras can. Through unconditional love and unconditional pain, Jesus is there with us. It is because of love that we get both. I wish all of you the best Hugs and the hardest Escaleras.