11-year-old Octavio giggles with four of his friends as they build their latest creation found amongst a table covered in Legos. At a first glance, you would think Octavio has never known a stranger or a frown. But what’s happening with Octavio is the first sentence in a new, and better, story.
Four years ago, Back2Back began classes in Tres Reyes. As kids came on Tuesdays and Saturdays, one reality quickly became clear: many of Tres Reyes’ families were hanging on by a thread. Overlooked, overworked, and isolated, most of the community is held together by shame and fear. Octavio was no exception. He, too, had been dramatically shaped by the undercurrent of fear in Tres Reyes.
Outside of a lukewarm relationship with two cousins and his sister, Octavio shoved away friendship. If someone tried, he’d lash out. He didn’t talk. Rules were a thing to be broken. His temper always simmered just below the surface. Any chance to bring love and truth into Octavio’s life was eclipsed by his angst and anger. The truth was evident; Octavio, despite a stubborn exterior, was fragile. He couldn’t be blamed; he took cues from the world around him.
Two years later, Octavio’s mother began attending classes at the then under construction community center. She voiced concern for Octavio. Over time, staff learned more about Octavio, his family, and their community. In turn, his mom learned more about Back2Back Cancun and the new community center. Relationships took shape between Octavio’s family and staff. Like the walls behind the classes, trust was slowly built. As the landscape around him transformed, Octavio, too, began to change.
Octavio began to show interest in other kids, staff and volunteers, and even the Bible. At face value, not much looked different in his life. But one change was evident: he was developing consistent, engaged, loving relationships.
Poverty is not only separation from financial resources; it is separation from relational resources. Outside of Octavio’s family, safe relationships didn’t exist. He had no reason to trust others, let alone care about them. But a new take on relationships was entering in. He watched his mom develop trust with staff, volunteers, and other parents. Not long after, Octavio found one friend, then two, and then three. A new storyline, one about trust and friendship, began to shape him anew.