Will conflicts in the world never end? For the last dozen years, I’ve employed Santos, a young Guatemalan man of Indian heritage, to help me with house and garden projects. Barely reaching my shoulders, Santos does not know how old he is, and considers it not important. When he started working for me, he thought he was fourteen. To him what matters is having enough money for food and rent for his family, and singing and playing musical instruments. He is always smiling and of good nature. When I get exasperated because he does something “wrong” he just laughs and laughs. Once he cut down the wrong tree, and thought it was a big joke. I was livid. Clearly we come from different worlds, and share different values. He is not fussy. When he needs a tool I don’t have, he makes it out of scrap. He never cleans up his work area, feeling it is unimportant, which infuriates me. I probably depend more on him than I’d like to admit. He is a hard worker, honest, and always of good humor. He will tackle just about anything, from a stopped up drain, to a huge painting project. What is problematic about the relationship is that we are both strong minded, a nice way of saying pig-headed, and we do not speak the same language. We share an adoration of his little daughter, Lilliani, now almost three. She is often the subject of my paintings, and when, as often, she snuggles in my lap, it melts whatever cultural differences divide us.
Last Sunday Santos glowed with pride as he added a small safety railing for me for the two steps down from my deck, a project to help my aging bones. .