Dear Editor,

Funny thing about life is nobody tells you when you are riding on top, you don´t feel it. I guess when you are young that’s pretty much how it is, even during tough times, the grown-ups deal with things and as a young person you don’t realize how things really are. In my case, I was lucky enough to ride the wave on top for a time, along with incredible people that somehow against all odds are still next to me, far away in in miles or kilometers, but real close to my family and me.

All of a sudden, things you can´t control come and shake you down, play you dirty, and in my case, forced me to start living a life of goodbyes, where you practically end up with nothing material, but still have the only thing that really matters, which is my wife Karen and daughter Laura.

When we left Veneuzela 3 years ago we had to let go of all material things but whatever fit in a bag, and said good bye to family, friends, traditions, and whatever we wanted for our life in the future. My daughter, without knowing, had to say good-bye to the right to meet family, the right to enjoy her grandparents, to the right to belong to somewhere, and had to become the little Venezuelan girl, the one that talks funny or the one that does not understand her friends, and so much more than I care to think about but have to deal with every day.

Having escaped to Argentina, we are in a new country and are still saying goodbye to people in the same situation as us who have to leave this country too, and we have no option but to say goodbye again. We end up feeling displaced, with a hole in the chest, with nothing…

All of a sudden you face other realities that make you think, make you humble, grateful, and actually leaves you feeling lucky. I remember watching a great friend of mine with his dad and two brothers, the youngest being 8 years old, taking the casket in which their mother laid, to the cemetery, that’s a tough picture… and when you think you can’t see any more, when you are tired, when the idea of quitting comes to your mind, someone comes to help. In my case, that someone is the Petersons in Panaca.

As many of you already know, I lived with the Petersons for the school year of 2000-2001. Ever since the day I left Lincoln County we have stayed close. After living back in Venezuela for the next 15 years, things continued to get worse economically. Eventually I had to flee my country and I have been looking for ways to get my wife and daughter in to a safe place. I have lived in Argentina for the past 3 years struggling to make a new life but their economy has continued to struggle and is failing slowly as well.

Feeling a bit desperate and without any options I borrowed money from a bank to fly to the US. to see if the Peterson’s could help me and my family. After I arrived in Panaca, immediately everything changed and I felt I was home, and safe. All of the Peterson kids even came to see me while I was here for the week. And a great surprise to me was that just a few days later the whole community welcomed me and made feel that I belonged, something I´ve been missing since I left my country and lost pretty much all I had.

The Peterson’s and Natalie Wadsworth had planned a huge fundraiser dinner just to help my family, and behind them comes my hermanos Michael Ficken and Danny Porter, and pretty much the rest of the community where only a few knew me. People like Shawn Frehner, Gordon Wadsworth and Natalie Wadsworth taught me faith, taught me that is ok letting people help you, that there is more to life. They taught me to realize how rich I am with people who truly care.

It´s been really hard for me to explain how grateful and humbled I am after seeing what the community has done for me and my family, as people that have not known me came forward to help. This generous outpouring of love and financial aid has allowed me to go back with options and strength to keep doing whatever I can to improve our situation. Our dream is to come live in Lincoln County one day!

I hope I will be able to give back all your kindness in some way to the community whom gave me hope for a better future. I do wish the next time you hear from me that I would be able to tell you how things have improved, thanks to your help.

Since visiting Panaca, that’s all I can think about. Even in Spanish I can’t find ways to explain how grateful I am to each of you. I came back to Argentina feeling stronger, renewed and hopeful. I told the Petersons I am now ready for round 2 or 3 or 4, I stopped counting, and out of respect to them I just have to keep trying until we win, no other option allowed.

To you all, Mil gracias.

Jay Burgos and family

Former LCHS exchange student (2000-01)