Rodrigo. Mi primo favorito. How I love this guy. I met him about 10 years ago and I immediately loved him. I mean, just look at that face. It’s so full of love and joy. It didn’t matter that I understood possibly every 2-3 words he told me. All that mattered was how special he obviously was and is to this day, and how I just wanted to be around him and listen to him talk to me. Rodrigo is 3 years younger than me but was clearly smarter and more advanced than me in a lot of ways. He had this joy about him. Actually, all of my cousins did. But Rodrigo….he is something else. What he taught me, I hope to carry with me forever.
- Never lose touch of your inner child – oh my goodness. Rodrigo was so playful and he wore those Thundercats t-shirts with a pride I’ve never experienced before. The light in his eyes when talking about the latest X-men movie was inspiring. I know….comics? Inspiring? When you talked to him about it, heck yes! Rodrigo embraced that inner child. He didn’t grow up and kill it off. No. That inner child thrives.
- Always help those in need – my cousin embodies this sentiment to a fault. Rodrigo is not impressive in size or build. You are not overcome with fear because he’s this uber fit and muscular jock of a guy. I’m not even sure he knows how to fight. I mean, who would want to fight this sweet soul? But someone did. Rodrigo was defending a girl in his group (she was a friend of a friend) and it nearly cost him his life. Rodrigo’s chest is riddled with deep scars from where the knife pierced his body. Did anyone thank him for helping this girl avoid what might have been the most traumatizing night of her entire life? No. Does he regret that he almost gave his life to a stranger who has yet to show her appreciation for what he did? Not even a little bit. Why? Because she needed help and it was the right thing to do.
- Love with your entire being – do you think you love someone, truly and deeply? Or is it more like you like them a lot and really only tolerate them? If the latter is true, then you’re doing it wrong. “It” meaning, your life. Rodrigo has only one affection – love. Utter and complete, joyous love. For everyone! It’s astonishing. Why? Because having all of that true emotion toward people I know is exhausting. Imagine a complete stranger? And he never turns it off. Rodrigo loves with every fiber of his being and it shows.
- Family first – a lot of people say this, but we don’t really follow through. How many years have gone by without you so much as thinking about that uncle who lives a state away or your cousins who live in another country? And do you think family is limited to only those who share your last name whom you share a meal with every Thanksgiving? Family first. Always. No matter where they live. No matter what their name happens to be. Family is always number one.
- Hold on to faith – Rodrigo’s faith in God is so strong. Perhaps this is why it is so easy for him to love so deeply. Whatever the reason, he says he survived that night of over 10 stabs to his chest because of his faith. He’s not depressed about it and does regret anything. Why? Because he has faith.
- Be generous – this has nothing to do with money and everything to do with time and love. Rodrigo goes to college (he’s studying to be a structural engineer), then comes home to take care of his mom and sister. He also finds time to mentor neighborhood children as a big brother despite his not having a male role model. He goes to church multiple times a week, and volunteers his time to help those in need before being asked. Did I mention he has a solid group of friends through church that he hangs out with on a regular basis as well? Be generous. It’s the only way to have a fulfilling life.