“Eventually all the Mexicans ask for money,” my friend Geri said.
“I have no money,” he told me.
“All right, I’ll do for you what I do for my son,” I said, and went to get a pen and a piece of paper.
“I need to tell you something. I’m not a sheep,” he said. The words that followed escape me, and so do the details because culture is a strong barrier to communication. What I understand is that he’s a teacher in the public school system. It’s a good job. The Mexican teacher’s union is the biggest and most powerful union in Latin American. Still, he has no money.
The newspaper union I was a part of for twenty-two years sought memebers and grew. There is strength in numbers. His union splintered, and he chose to go with the opposition group, and he’s paid a price. His hours have been cut in half. “It’s only money,” he tells me, and hopes I’ll give him some of mine.
It’s his cause, not mine. Pen in hand, I pry, ask for details, add up his expenses and his earnings, each month he is $830 pesos short, at a bear minimum.
“Perhaps you should join the other union.”
“You want me to be a sheep?”
“I don’t want you to be anything. You don’t have enough money and I’m not supplementing your income.”
“Give up your room in the city.”
“I can’t sometimes I have to teach early morning classes and it’s along way from my village to where I teach.”
The conversation goes on. His situation is impossible.
“It’s your problem, not mine,” I tell him.
I leave the room and go into the room that contains my cash drawer, and pull out a $500 peso bill.
“Here. This isn’t a loan because you have no money to repay me. It’s not enough. It doesn’s solve your problem. You’ll need to figure out how you’re going to do that.”
He tells me I’ve helped. He tells me he’s never sat and figured out his expenses compared to his income. If he had I’m sure he would have understood why he never has any money.