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Our Saturdays at the Villa Soleada Children’s Home

Our Saturdays at the Villa Soleada Children’s Home

People say you can do anything want in life,” G says as he reads the passage. “But what they don’t tell you is that you have to work for it.” He’s reading THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR KID, a leadership book written by bestselling author, Jocko Willink. G’s twin brother P, also in the 7th grade, listens as he munches on a fresh slice of watermelon we had snuck into the coffee shop. Every week for nearly a year, the three of us had been spending our Saturday afternoons together to read and discuss. We chiseled away at the 200-page children’s book.

THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR KID is about Marc, a 5th grader who stunk at gym class, math was too hard for him, the school lunch was horrible, and his class field trip was ruined because he couldn’t swim. As the summer approaches, he’s not excited at all to become a sixth grader. In fact, he’s terrified—Kenny Williamson, the class bully, will be tormenting him yet again. But during summer break, his uncle Jake, a Navy SEAL, stays over for three months. Together, the two do pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, swimming, and eat right. To help Marc do better at school, uncle Jake trains Marc to use flash cards. Soon, Marc memorizes the multiplication table and all the US Presidents. Gradually, Marc becomes a Warrior Kid.

It’s P’s turn to read. “With hard work, anything is possible,” he reads out loud. As I hand the plastic menu back to the waitress at the coffee shop, P sees an opportunity. He sneaks another sugar packet into his coffee.

“Tío Shin, what does this word here mean?” I take a look at the page. “Humble. It means humilde,” I reply.  P knows the drill. He stops reading and fills out an index card. With his scrappy handwriting, he scribbles “humble” on one side and “humilde” on the other side.

Over the months, we had accumulated more than 200 flashcards with unfamiliar words from the book. Wounded. Hesitant. Startle. Despite. Overcome.

This year was hard. The boys turned thirteen and becoming a teenager meant making a lot of mistakes and questionable choices. The book came out at a good time. It inspired the two to step up to bullies who were picking on younger friends, increase their max number of pull-ups from seven to twelve, participate in three long-distance races, and begin to eat more vegetables.

G reads the next sentence: “The Warrior kid trains hard, exercises, and eats right to be strong and fast and healthy.” That afternoon as we read the final chapter of the book, we’re excited to see what happens but sad that we’ve reached the end.

P follows with the next: “The Warrior Kid treats people with respect and helps out other people whenever possible.”

As we finish the last page of the book, the three of us clink together our ceramic mugs and sip silently. The coffee tastes bittersweet that day as we think back on the fun afternoons we had spent together reading. It’s all come to an end. “Discipline equals freedom,” G says, hunching his shoulders forward and imitating Jocko’s deep podcast voice. We laugh. I reach into my backpack and pull something out. It’s MARC’S MISSION, the sequel to the original book.

Written by Shin Fujiyama, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Students Helping Honduras