Ricardito has taught me more than most. He and his mom Iris have volunteered with us since the beginning of #ChefsForPuertoRico — when he would sit with headphones and wrap hundreds of sandwiches on his own. He gives the best hugs in the whole world, and shares them widely throughout the day to anyone and everyone who takes a moment to say hello — and lovingly never lets go. One day, he made so many sandwiches that he clearly deserved a trophy — so our team all signed a ketchup bottle, complete with a happy face inside the cap (👏🏾 Alejandro) that brought him to tears. In November, Iris quietly pulled me aside to ask if I knew anyone who could help with a skin condition Ricardo has, wherein his skin peels off with socks or clothes or even touch, exacerbated by the heat and lack of air in their apartment due to the prolonged blackout. And their public housing didn’t have a generator, not even for the elevator to take them up to the 10th floor unit. It was the first time we spoke about Ricardo’s trying and traumatic health journey over the past 22 years, diagnosed with a disease that only a few dozen people have in the world — and only one here in Puerto Rico. He is a miracle. A gift. A light. To all of us and the thousands who have eaten a meal he has made or delivered side by side with his mama, each afternoon and long into the evening. She didn’t ask for a thing, but I made a call to find the rare generator. And when she came two days later, it was awaiting. She couldn’t believe it. But I can’t believe her depth of commitment to her son, to service, to education through experience — and both of their inspirational commitment to serving those who don’t have access to a simple hot meal, a backpack, school supplies, even water. Ricardo and Iris posses a spirit, a power, a heart that is infectious, beautiful and truly life-changing. Gracias por tu compromiso y entrega. Que Dios los cuide para siempre.
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