Is it destiny that makes our course or is it the path that dictates our fate? Many follow their fate, but a few write their own. Sam Hawkins is such a person. Two weeks after we met this incredible man, he had a misfortune and while opening a bottle of chemicals, it exploded in his face and resulted in second degree burns from the neck up. When I received the news I was in shock as to why such a calamity could happen to such a saint-like person.
At age 71, Sam is as young at heart as any child. The twinkle in his eyes, his enthusiasm, his cowboy boots and thick Texan accent set him apart from the Salvadorians, but if that wasn’t enough, at six foot and some change, he stands out in the middle of the short Latin American crowd. Sam and his lovely wife, Julie, came on a church mission trip to El Salvador years ago during the civil war. But it wasn’t the church mission that changed him; it was a little malnourished baby boy, abandoned in a sugar cane field that made Sam who he is today. Sam and Julie took the boy in, cared for him and after long nights of struggle, he made it. Twenty-two years later, he’s alive and well and residing in Bangor, Maine and is getting married in a few months. They named him Eric. Since Eric, Sam and Julie made it their life work to open their door to every malnourished child they could find, and they have treated and saved over 1200 malnourished babies to this day. They made El Salvador their home and as Sam puts it, “I’ll never leave El Salvador.”
We met Sam through Claudia Aguirre who arranged the meeting at her office. We met Sam at 8 am and talked for hours before heading for the baby house. Before we left, I took him out on the bike for a ride and he loved it. His eyes were lit up like a little boy, and he hung on to me for the dear life as sped up through the tight streets of San Salvador. He really wants a motorcycle, but his wife Julie is very apprehensive. With a funny/sad face he said “She won’t let me.”
The baby house was incredibly clean and bright. Apparently Sam worked out at the gym next to the richest guy in El Salvador, neither of them knowing what the other person did. They talked about everything and anything but work. The guy finally found out about what Sam did and he donated the current baby house for the cause before he died. We met Julie at the baby house and she had no less enthusiasm than Sam. They are a perfect couple and they work together in perfect harmony. We played with the kids, got the tour and were amazed at their generosity. Over lunch, Sam told me about his other work. He started to visit prisons trying to rehabilitate the Salvadorian gang members. The government just puts more pressure on the gangs, shooting them when they can and treating them brutally when they get their hands on them (and they probably deserve it), but Sam’s way is the love way. The gang members actually listen to him, and no one bothers him. He created this program which he signs out prisoners and brings them back to society. He trains them, gives them the means and opportunity to have a job and education. They make handmade boots which they sell at the market and reinvest the profit back into the program. That’s why Sam is so proud of his boots.
We spent the night at Sam’s house, and after a delicious breakfast with Julie, we bid them farewell and got back on the road. It is heartwarming to see that there are still a few good men left who do everything and expect nothing in return. Get well soon Sam and thank you for being who you are. If you like to help out in his mission, consider making a donation of any amount, and we will forward it right to him. He has a nonprofit organization called the Love Link, but the website is not up to date and is hard to use. If you like to get a hold of him directly, contact me and I’ll provide you with the information.
Thanks to the wonderful KPMG staff, our stay in El Salvador was a memorable one. Salvadorian hospitality is hard to beat and this country will always stay in my memory. I hope I can make it back one day. Next stop: Honduras.