By: Héctor A. Ramos Pedraza
It is 5:30 am of a cold Thursday morning in the rural neighborhood Tomás de Castro #2 in Caguas. The sun starts rising and the roosters start singing. “There is my alarm, just in time like every single day” says a strong voice inside one of the houses. Carlos “Charlie” Román, Mercedes Rivera, his wife, and his two beautiful daughters, María Isabel and Carla Román Rivera, get prepared to attend their workplaces and schools on time.
The engine starts, everybody put their seatbelts on and says at the same time “Thank you God for another day of life and please give us the wisdom to deal with any situation that could appear today. Amen!”
Although Charlie, 45, seems like a very serious and sharp man, when people get to know him better, they realize that behind that thoughtfulness face there is a very funny person hidden. He has a kind personality, always willing to help without expecting anything in return. Román is a very helpful human being with a huge heart who always tries to give his best on every single task that people ask him to do. He also carries high levels of spirituality and wisdom which help him to face any unexpected obstacles. His favorite phrase is “To be a saint, you must do what you have to do, but you must do it well.”
Furthermore, God gave him many different talents and abilities related with imagination, creativity and fun. Indeed, he decided to dedicate his life to offer those gifts for the benefit of others doing different types of community service such as catechist and church’s event organizer. His wish is to put a smile on the faces of people of all ages in many different ways. “I have been in many different scenarios…, doing all types of things you all can imagine. “I have to admit that it is really exhausting, but is worth it because seeing people smile and laugh is what makes me so lucky and gives me the energy to reload my batteries,” he said holding a big smile on his face as he blinked one of his eyes firmly.
Apart from the artistic skills, he manages to project his spirituality in the workplace while teaching physical education to his little students from Diego Vázquez elementary school. He just does not teach to take care about body health and the importance of physical activity, but also the importance of “share with others the gifts that life give us,” and how to put them to the service of the community. “That is the best lesson I can teach to my students, apart from the academic aspects” he said.
When the clock marks 3:30 pm “Mercedes, Maria and Carla get into the car and let’s go home.” It seems like the hardest part of the day has passed, but it is just about to begin. Charlie is tired from work and he would beg for a long shower, go straight to bed and take a long nap. Instead of that, he takes a bath, eats dinner with his family, helps his daughters with their homework and gets prepared to go out again.
Although he is totally exhausted, he realizes that it is very important for his girls to see how “mommy and daddy make sacrifices to provide food and always keep God in mind and separate time for Him” said Charlie rubbing his head.
It is 7:30 pm and Charlie arrives to his other work, but the one that he does without getting paid. “Hey guys how are you?” he says to the young people who are getting prepared to receive the Sacrament of the Confirmation on August 2013. Every Thursday they meet in the center of activities of the “Capilla Santa Rosa de Lima” (St. Rose Lime Chapel) to spend time sharing the joy of learning more about God. Charlie is very observant and so he begins every meeting asking them “In one word, tell me how your week was?” so he can infer how they feel according to their answers.
“The time we spent together at those meetings with Charlie was to open our hearts and expand our minds about what really matter in life” said Pedro Pedraza, a 16 year old guy who received this sacrament last August 2012. At the beginning they are nervous, but when they tight their bonds, they become a family, considering Charlie as a good friend that give them advices. Also like a family member they can trust to tell him situations that they do not tell their parents, so he can counsel them. “Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, even sometimes we argue, but at the end of every meeting we go to our houses with a little wisdom to put in practice for the rest of the week until the next Thursday” said Naiara Quiñones, a 15 year old candidate for the Confirmation Sacrament.
There is an important rule that Charlie requires to the members “what we tell here, here stays,” he emphasized very seriously. The bond of trust is really hard to make and so easy to break. He remarked “that is a must” because most of the time, students say tough things about their lives and it is important to respect their decision of sharing feelings and not spread them to other places.
By the end of every arduous Thursday, Carlos arrives to his house thinking about the anecdotes that his students told him. He passes the rest of the week trying to find a way to be a helping hand for them. It sometimes makes him recalls his childhood days when his father pretended that he or his mom did not exist. “My father was an alcoholic. He did not spend so much time with us (my mom, my sister and I) and almost never was there for us, but I learned to forgive and continue with my life” he said trying to hold the tears in his eyes.
It seems like “Charlie’s” mission is to share with others his wisdom and to provide them a shoulder to cry, an ear to listen, or an advice for dealing with uncomfortable situations. “My mission in life is just be there for anyone who needs me.”