Hugo arrived in the back of a police truck in 2008 and immediately won our hearts.
"Somebody stole my socks" Hugo whined to me. And flashing his (in)famous smile added, "But I found another pair that is better than mine!" There have been few boys who forged a permanent place in my heart over the years and Hugo is one of them. Hugo arrived at Hope House in the back of a police truck. Usually this sends up all kinds of red flags as Hope House is not equipped to receive boys with criminal charges or drug and alcohol addictions. The officers escorted Hugo into the office and, after quick introductions, began to brief me on his circumstances leading up to the big question - would we be willing to offer Hugo a home?
Hugo had been kidnapped in Mexico City several months earlier. When his captors had stopped for gas in Guadalajara, he had managed to slip out of the car and escape. He wandered the streets until the police picked him up. They were attempting to locate Hugo's mother in Mexico City with the fragmented information he was able to provide and until his mother could be found Hugo needed a place to stay.
I looked at Hugo - flithy clothes, shoes barely covering his feet - and said of course Hope House had room for him. And that is when Hugo looked at me and I saw his smile for the first time.
Hugo lived with us for almost a year as we watched the gears of bureaucracy slowly grind away. We couldn't announce Hugo's arrival to Hope House on social media or introduce Hugo to potential sponsors for fear of retaliation from his captors. Hugo renounced his faith in "la Santa Muerte" - a saint associated with death that promises protection and healing to her followers - and gave his life over to Jesus Christ. You could always tell when he was pulling a prank, stretching the truth or teasing - his smile would give him away. Sometimes he would cover his mouth (another tell he was up to something!) and his smile would turn up the corners of his eyes too. But when social workers came to pick him and begin the long journey back to Mexico City, he and I both had tears in our eyes. "I'll pray for you and your family," he said.
"Don't worry," one of the social workers said, "you can ride up front with us and we'll stop anywhere you want for lunch." Hugo looked back over his shoulder and I saw his smile for the last time.
Thank you for creating a home where boys like Hugo can experience true love. Hope House would not exist without your generous support. If you would like to make a difference in the life of a child like Hugo, let us know.