Nineteen-year-olds aren’t typically known for inspiring selflessness. Then again, Abe Guerrero is hardly a typical 19-year-old.
An inpatient at University of San Francisco’s Children’s Hospital for the past six months, Guerrero’s easy smile and engaging individuality are never more clearly displayed than in a simple one-on-one conversation. But a documentary that Guerrero wrote, storyboarded, directed, starred in and recently premiered for friends and hospital staff does a pretty good job of reproducing the effect.
The 30-minute movie tactfully tackles issues of living with a handicap and dealing with life in a hospital. But the project is not striking for the featured disabilities so much as it is for the amazing qualities that Guerrero exudes.
In one of the movie’s most poig-nant scenes, Guerrero tells an interviewer that if he could have any one superpower, it would not be the power to heal himself; not to ward off the decubitis ulcers that keep him in the hospital; not to vanquish the paraplegia that keeps him in a wheelchair; but to heal others.
Guerrero, who was pre-
sented with an award for "willingness to always engage others in conversation, sharing [his] experience and creativity, and sticking it out when things got tough" at the movie’s packed premiere, is just that kind of a person.
"The award was for the ‘Most Inspirational and Helpful Person,’" he said proudly. "It was from the staff and I really wasn’t expecting it. It was emotional for me; it put a big smile on my face."
"He was seeking the opportunity to be heard, to be recognized and to let people into his life," said Devora Kanter, the movie’s producer and executive director of local nonprofit BayKids. "You could really feel the impact of it: honest and brave, tender and passionate.
Much of the passion in the documentary is evoked in its carefully selected music, one of Guerrero’s greatest passions. A self-taught guitarist, Guerrero plays a touching piece early in the movie and can explain why each of the songs in the score was selected. "Music is a great way to cope," he said. "In my life it has been an inspiration."
If music has been his inspiration, Guerrero has passed on the favor to those around him in spades — through his life and now through a documentary about his life. A sign hanging on Guerrero’s wall reads, "Always remember that you have amazing potential and that you control your destiny. So do something amazing!"
He took the words to heart.