The sun rose to a beautiful, dark gray day. Work day two. Everyone is feeling the muscles they used the day before and there is a little underlying excitement, the house goes up today.
The sky is gray and our crew chief, Gerard, is looking a little green. Not feeling so hot today, but hoping it will pass, so off the site they go. As it ends up, the beautifully hot day we had the day before left Gerard with some sunstroke, and the only productive thing he could do was to bless the tires of his truck with the contents of his stomach. A little irony, the man who was the water police the day before hadn’t kept himself hydrated; lesson in itself for those of us who are always looking to help others and forget about helping ourselves.
Picture it now. It is the Trading Spaces moment that some TLC lovers sit on the edge of their arm chairs for. The paint reveal. The family had requested creamy, off white. And the store had given us the closest they had to that colour. Drum roll please, students waiting for work to do, family looking on in anticipation, and ta-da, BRIGHT ORANGE!
Not creamy off-white. Not even close. If it was Trading Spaces, there would be a sassy neighbour sticking up for their friends best interests, their best interests really, if they valued the friendship. But it’s Mexico, home of passionate people who love bright colours. Someone in the village might actually have that paint on their house. So the question is asked of the mother who had a look of… something that wasn’t delight… on her face. What do you think? This is what we have. Is it ok? And she says yes.
Hearts sink and red flags go up. It is not a yes that she means. It is a polite yes, one that she has said because she didn’t want to offend the group, and had no cultural idea how to directly ask for something different, especially since she can see that this is what we had. So she was a trooper and sucked it up. There were some task-orientated people who blew the work whistle and tried to rally the workers to start spreading that Tropicana sunshine on the walls of the new house. And there were some students who read the situation correctly and were working up the nerve to blow another whistle, the time out one.
It is only a paint colour. But it is not what the family requested, and even though the mother has given a verbal yes, it is not what she wants. There are two possibilities. Go ahead with the colour that hunters wear to avoid being shot, or find another option.
But someone has to be the voice, someone has to stand up for the family’s wishes. Someone has to take the risk and stand up against the something that is already moving in a different direction, a direction more towards orange. And someone does. And many others sigh in relief that someone said something, and tension exists, and uncertainty exists, and a solution is needed.
After some creative thinking and a phone call, an easy solution is to go back to the hardware store, find the colour that was passed over because it may have been too gray, purchase it, bring it back and present the mother with the choice of what she would prefer. There is nothing to lose, but everything to gain. The worse thing that is possibly going to happen is that we will have some orange paint left over, or some off-white left over.
After some re-shifting of plans, our dehydrated and heaving crew chief was sent home to be tended to by his wife while the new paint was brought to the worksite for yet, another reveal. The mother choose the lighter colour paint, the one that extra effort was put in to make sure she was getting what she wishes.
It’s a paint colour. And even more. It is advocacy and it is dignity. Practiced by a group of Canadians between the ages of 16 and 20. It was them speaking up for a woman who couldn’t find her voice in a situation. It is them realizing that there are more important things than just doing the work. There is the chance to speak up, to think, to preserve a persons dignity. To go beyond what they are here in Mexico to accomplish; to how they will accomplish it.
And for that I am very proud of them. Well done