The boy with a machete

When more than 175 people show up for a Christmas party, it's hard to single out one individual who caught your attention.

Donny wanted to go into the party, but he didn't want to go in with his machete.

However, when that individual is a young boy with a machete that happens to be longer than his arm, it's pretty easy to remember.

Here in Guatemala, seeing people toting a machete as they go about their normal daily activities. I tell people that the difference between here and the U.S. is if you see someone with a big machete walking down the road, you probably think about calling the police. Here, if you see someone with a machete, it's probably a gardener.

And if you see a young child with one, it breaks your heart a little.

Donny is 11 years old and has learned to be polite. He did not want to enter the Christmas party we held at Los Corrales last Saturday. I spied him when I took a couple of tostadas smeared with beans, salsa and sprinkling of shredded cheese. I offered Donny a couple, which he quickly accepted. I retrieved a cup of fruit punch for him as well.

I asked him why he had a machete, which had a nice leather sheath with a strap and tassels (I've seen several people, including youngsters, strapping one to their belt without a sheath.) He told me he had to cut wood for his home. It's probably his chore to do for the family, and an important one since most kitchens in this impoverished areas only burn wood. If there's no wood to burn, there's no cooked food. His family relies on him, so at 11 he's already in the adult world of responsibility.

Most likely, Donny had returned from his daily routine, saw the crowd, and wondered what was up. He went up to the door and peeked in, his body language exposing his yearning to be with the other kids inside. He turned, took off the machete and placed it next to me.

I nodded at him, telling him I'd keep an eye on it, and then nodded at the door. He needed no more encouragement and scooted into the room. Soon, dozens of boys and girls streamed out with small gifts.

Eventually, Donny made his way out. He had found the end of the line, so most of the prepackaged toys already were gone. Luckily, Mendy had brought some small bags that had been filled with tiny toys, candy and other items.

It may not have been much, but it was something for a boy to hold on to and think about as he heads into the adult world of responsibility.

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