I left work and instead of walking home I thought that I would walk in the opposite direction and see if I could find a recipient of my daily ten-spot. As I walked down 25th Street I passed Trader Joe’s on my left and arrived at Pennsylvania Avenue. What a historic avenue! This 36 mile stretch of road (about five of which are in DC) is most known for the 1.2 mile section that connects the White House to the Capitol. I was standing about a mile west of the White House near where the avenue begins (or ends I guess) at the edge of Georgetown. That is where I saw Rigoberto.
Originally from Honduras, Rigoberto has been here for approximately ten years. He lives in the District and works as a cook at a restaurant on the iconic Pennsylvania Avenue. “Es una ciudad muy bonita,” he says as he talks fondly about Washington. Although he has patiently waited nine years for his green card to be approved, he dreams of one day returning to Honduras. “Toda mi familia está alla,” he tells me explaining that his wife and six children (ages 11-22) are there in a small town that is a two day bus trip west of the capital of Tegucigalpa. “It’s right on the border with El Salvador.”
He looked down at the ten-dollar bill in his hand and said that he was going to send it to his daughter who is a university student in Honduras. Every month he sends her $150. This time he will send her $160. It comes at a good time too. He told me that she had just asked if he could send her some additional money this month for some other expenses she incurred.
Rigoberto, who is legally here, has worked in the US for ten years in order to provide for his large family. Moving thousands of miles away to a strange city with a different language would not be a choice some people would be able to do. “This is how I support my family,” he tells me. In his hometown, rent for a nice home for a family of his size costs about $105. “And this includes someone to help with cooking the meals, cleaning the house and doing the laundry.” He would not be able to make the kind of salary he has here if he were to be working there.
Rigoberto had just left the restaurant where he was working to run to the bank so I didn’t want to keep him too much longer. The last thing I would want is for him to get in trouble for not being at work. I told him that I would try to stop in some time and eat at the restaurant where he works. “Well, that’s up to you,” he says with a big smile. “It’s a pretty expensive place and I’m not that good of a cook!”
I have listed on the Lend a Hand page two items that Rigoberto needs. His refrigerator can not keep up with the heat and says that the freezer compartment does not work well enough to keep things frozen. He also needs a new stove.