Friday, July 26, 2013

The Little Things Make the Biggest Difference

When my brother Mike (our Vice President) and I were little, our Grandmother would send care packages to us that were full of delight. Candy, Cracker Jacks, chocolate coins in tiny mesh bags--enough for all five of us. It felt like a box of joy had traveled all the way from Trenton, New Jersey to tiny Somerset, Kentucky. I still love getting boxes on my doorstep; the element of surprise is tangible and I stop whatever I am doing to open them when they arrive. Today I opened a box from a Finding Freedom through Friendship volunteer Evelyn. Here is what I discovered: 

The cutest beanie hats ever, hand-knit by a lady who I have never met, and most likely never will since she lives 2,000 miles away. Evelyn has done this for us before. Her hats are beautiful. I've sent them to Central America as part of  our midwifery kits, and in boxes of clothing donations, and the children in the cool mountains of Guatemala love them. They are tangible gifts of caring, one stitch at a time. It may seem like a small thing (literally) in the face of so much need.
This box wasn't just meant to brighten the day of the lucky recipients in Guatemala. Evelyn's offering of love and attention to detail made a difference in my day as well.
Her hats are beautiful but her spirit is contagious. I needed the boost today as I struggle with the demands of the paperwork required to run this program. After opening Evelyn's "box of friendship" I felt a tingle of renewed enthusiasm to tackle my pile.
Grandma's care packages taught me that love comes in many forms. Mike and I think she would approve of how Evelyn shows hers. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's My Party.....

If you grew up in the '60's, then you know the rest of the the title. The song sung by Lesly Gore, continues with..."and I'll cry if I want to." It was an instant hit with the melodramatic teenagers of that period, of which I was one.
Today is my 56th birthday, and while I'm not having a party I am going to write about what I want in the way of birthday gifts. In a dream world, I would like:
  For women everywhere to have minimally safe housing to raise their children in, houses that have doors that lock, screens to keep out malaria spreading mosquitoes, and concrete floors to stop the spread of parasites.
If I could wrap it up in a nice box, with a pretty bow, I would ensure that every child in the world have enough to eat, with meals of protein and essential vitamins. What an amazing planet this would be if the next generation had healthy brains from adequate nutrition during their formative years. That would be my request for gift number two.

Sebastian and Pablo are now in school

So that I wasn't considered too greedy, I would stop at gift number three, and ask that every child in the world would no longer have to work instead of going to school. 
 When I was a teenager, the words of It's My Party song repeated themselves in my head many times. Adolescent hormones made the song attractive; when I wasn't crying over puppy love or friendship issues, I found something sad to imagine myself upset about. These days, while the song brings me back to funny memories, I'm not crying during my birthday. Each year that passes is a celebration of our accomplishments as an organization. 
Our gifts haven't changed the world for very many people in Guatemala, but for each one of our recipients of food, shelter or education, I have a new song running through my head. It is What a wonderful world,by Louis Armstrong. It is a wonderful world when caring and competent people combine talent and desire for change with donors who wish to make significant difference. 
We all have gifts to share. 
Dorca, (L) with food donations from FFF

Dominga, who will soon have a new house from FFF

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Walking With My Eyes Wide Shut

     I know this is an odd blog post title, but anyone crazy enough to start a nonprofit is a bit "off" to begin with. There are a million reasons not to add to the busyness of daily life by starting a journey of paperwork, legal issues, bookkeeping and fundraising; all so that fifteen abandoned women and their forty-three children can eat one meal a day, have an education and sleep in waterproof housing.
     It creates a lot of mind chatter when you administrate a nonprofit. Focusing on what is in front of me, instead of worrying about what may or may not happen to our organizations future and to the future of those we help, is a challenge. 
     I'm working on it. Max has to have a long walk every day. He is endlessly patient, but when he starts sighing and circling, I know it is time. Always one for multi-tasking, I recently decided to try to calm my "hamster brain" by shutting out one of my sensory inputs while I walked the dog. Max became my Finding Freedom through Friendship seeing eye dog. 

Max, waiting patiently
When you walk with your eyes closed, several things happen. The body shifts focus; the auditory senses suddenly become more alert. Feet "feel" the pavement instead of simply moving in a forward direction. The body slows down, knowing that danger is imminent if it doesn't. Skin feels breezes, hands hold the dog leash tighter, and faith in anything but eyesight grows stronger. 
Several things happen when I participate in this admittedly idiotic behavior. 
Rosa in front of new home donated by FFF
Once my whirling brain slows down, which happens when visual stimulation is taken away, I think of Rosa, our blind mother of five in Guatemala. Rosa isn't playing a game; for unknown reasons she became blind at age fifteen. Finding Freedom through Friendship built her a home, which she will feel but never see.The donated pot she is holding will be cooked in by feeling the heat, sensing the weight of the food, hoping not to get burned. When I walk with my eyes wide shut, I feel everything so much more acutely. I feel Rosa's fear when she walks unattended, or senses a neighbor nearby that may not have the best of intentions. I sense her worry that before being accepted into our program, she could not feed her children without vision to harvest and plant crops. I shared her grief when she had to give away her youngest son to a male neighbor so Daniel could eat. And I joined her in the joy she felt when, thanks to regular food donations, he returned. 
What I see

I never make it for long....I'm not as brave as Rosa and I really don't want to break a leg while pretending to be blind. When I open my eyes it is with a new clarity, and appreciation for images (R) like this:
Instead of this:

What Rosa can see