Friday, December 20, 2013

The Gift

  During our youth, we spend the days, if not months, before this Christmas holiday, wanting. If you are over 40, you may remember doing that "wanting" by thumbing through the Sears catalog, one miraculous page at a time, dog-earing the ultra thin pages, and making our list, so Santa would know exactly what we wanted under the tree.
Something internal shifts as we become older. Responsibilities grow, material objects take on less meaning, and we realize what is really important at this most holy of holidays. And here is the big reveal, which we all already know but a little reminder never hurts.
When two of our board members lost their father a few weeks ago, he didn't take a single item to the grave with him. All that is left of his life is the memories of the people he chose to have relationships with.

Our Finding Freedom through Friendship mothers know their priorities better than most. All of them have experienced loss in profound ways, either through the death of a husband, a child or the passing of parents who helped support them. When FFF first brought each of these mothers into our program, they were either living with relatives or renting huts with roofs that leaked onto dirt floors. Their children went to bed hungry and often missed school while they accompanied their mother's to the fields to work.
Does the fact that they came into our program with so little mean that they wish for nothing? Not at all, but their "wanting" is a bit different than ours. Sinks, tables, beds...essential and rudimentary household items are what they hope for.  And they wish for freedom from worry. 

Catarina and daughters with new Guatemalan sink

Our volunteers are often given small gifts from the women and children we help. They are usually hand made, and given from the heart. The best gifts of all- - three apples picked from a nearby tree, a handwoven belt, or a piece of loomed textile. Gifts from women and children who know what empty feels like: empty cupboards; empty huts; empty promises.
Marta (left) is full of hope for a better future. By definition, the word hope means to open your heart to possibility. 
Our Christmas gift to Marta, and the other 42 children in our program is not only the daily meals we provide, or the school supplies we purchase or even the new shoes we give them. Finding Freedom through Friendship offers the intangible gift of hope. You can see it in her face; read it in her note; catch it in the glimmer in her eyes. 
Feliz Navidad 


Sunday, December 1, 2013

One Holiday, Two Different Families

My house is decorated, most gifts are wrapped, the holiday cards are on order and it all served the purpose of working through the grief that found our family a few days before Thanksgiving. Holiday rituals are like that; they take over your mind while your hands work the same habitual patterns, year after year. The decorations haven't changed much for  at my house. My family likes the familiar, the traditional. 

Candalaria in former home
Candalaria's family is no different. Her five children gave up expectation of participating in the typical Guatemalan Christmas festivities several years ago, when their father abandoned the family. As the only wage earner, the loss of a father meant the mother and children lived on what little money Candalaria makes washing clothes for neighbors. Five Christmas seasons went by, and the family had little hope for anything different, with the exception of a daily meal, and scholastic support for the children, provided by Finding Freedom.
 Until Jenni and Rob in Texas decided to create significant change for this family. 

Former kitchen
This Christmas, Candalaria and her children have the best possible present: hope. With the donation of this new, waterproof house with a concrete floor and smoke free stove, Candalaria can now use the $10-$15 she earns per month to purchase candles, soap, and some clothing for her children. Jenni and her husband gave Candalaria and her children intangible gifts this holiday season: wonder that a family they have never met would care for them, hope for a better future, security against possible eviction.
There are no better gifts.

New home for Christmas

New Stove