Many people in our small town would approach Ricardo and ask him, "How are things different here in America?"
Privately, Ricardo told us that he was frustrated by the insensitivity of those who asked that question. "I'm American." He said proudly. "I'm from America just as you are. I'm from South America. And you are from North America. Why do you say you are from America, like I am not from America?"
I must confess, the thought had never occurred to me that Ricardo was as American as I was.
* * *
Yesterday, the Catholic Church received her first Holy Father from The Americas. I don't know if we have become a more global society since 1982, or if we are just proud to be able to claim Pope Francis as "one of our own." But those of us in the United States are very proud of our first American Pope. Yes, Pope Francis is from America. South America. Argentina, to be exact.
My AFS brother had many things to teach me about the brotherhood of all Americans; so, too, my Holy Father has many things to teach me about the brotherhood of all believers.
I am ready to learn. Ready to look at preconceived ideas and let them go. Ready to be led by our (Universal) Holy Father.
The lessons are already afoot.
Something is different. There's something about this Holy Father that is already shaking things up in my spirit. Like another South American I once knew.
What does it mean to be an American? That was the lesson in 1982.
What does it mean to be Catholic? That's the lesson of 2013.
It's changing me - this story of a very humble Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
I'm American, like he is.
But I have much to learn from this kind of an American.
I come from a society that has too much and wants even more. I come from a society that spends too much on food and entertainment and manicures and Pinterest-featured home improvements, and hair extensions, and glitzy public relations efforts and massages and purses covered in the letter C and summer vacations and time shares and elite sports teams.
I come from a society that can't remember what it was like to live simply - that all might simply live.
Yes. I have something to learn from this American.
And if you are reading this, you at least have a computer or a smart phone. So I guess that probably means you come from a world that is very much like my own. You probably have a few things to learn from Pope Francis as well.
It's time to be teachable.
What might Our Heavenly Father be trying to say to us through our new Holy Father?
All I have to do is step into my walk-in closet, and I suspect I already know what the first lesson is - at least for me.