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Archive for the ‘compassion’ Category

How many times have you thought this to yourself? You see a homeless person or a man with a sign at an intersection that says “will work for food”, and you avoid them at all cost. Here in Guatemala we have kids juggling at intersections, a guy who looks like a pirate who goes from car to car, and people selling gum, candy, or other things on the bus.

Just don’t look them in the eye… right?

I hate to break it to you, but they are still there. You can ignore them, but the problem doesn’t just go away.

Today on the bus ride home a woman got on the bus with her daughter, who was about three years old. The child was dressed in torn pajamas, and the mom carried a box full of chocolates. The woman paid her one quetzal (Q1=about twelve cents) for the bus ride and sat her daughter down next to a man wearing a business suit. The little girl was eating a huge ear of corn still wrapped in the husk. The mother spent most of our ride home trying to sell chocolates on the moving bus while people got on and off around her. She told her story of her hard life (as much as I could understand), and waited patiently for anyone to buy a chocolate for Q1. The little girl happily talked nonstop to the man in the business suit. He half-acknowledged the child and smiled politely, but got off the bus without buying a chocolate.

How many times have you pretended to see past a person in need. You roll up your car windows at the intersection. You say that you have no spare change, but you take the kids to the McDonald’s drive-thru so that they can get one more toy that they don’t need. You justify this by saying that “those people” will probably spend the money on alcohol or drugs.

Personally, I never give out money. However, I always have food with me. I always keep crackers or a piece of fruit in my bag for the people at intersections. There are times when I will see one of my students begging at an intersection. They are just as happy to say hello and get a smile and an orange as they are money. When I lived in the States, I always kept a pack of bottled water and some apples in the car for people who I encounter.

Consider the actions you take. Consider the people that you are ignoring… they are people. Say hello. Ask them how they are. Have a conversation. Shake their hand. Wish them well. Be human. Look them in the eye.

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I apologize to my family if this brings up sore feelings of the past. I love you.

em·pa·thy: [em-puh-thee] the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Today was a sad day for me. First thing this morning, one of the kids who I have gotten to know this year showed up to the school crying and holding her head. When we removed her hand, we saw that she had been covering a gash in her forehead and a good-sized lump. This amazing girl had been abused by her older brother, who she defines as crazy. I have only seen the brother one time earlier in the year. As he was yelling things at her that I didn’t understand, she took me by the hand and lead me away from her home while she looked at me with sad eyes and said said, “perdon, Kerry” (forgive me Kerry). This is the extent of the interaction that I have had with this boy of about fourteen years old.

This morning I heard that once again this girl’s brother punched her in her head with his fist while wearing rings. This conversation between her and I happened just a half hour after we past her house while her grandmother was sitting outside the house yelling at everyone inside. This is real/normal life for this amazing 10-year-old girl. While we talked today, she told me of other times where her older brother has physically abused her. This opened a whole can of worms in my heart.

How do you tell a child that this is not normal? How do you tell a kid who has never known any better that, no… it’s not normal for your family to violate your body, heart, spirit, and mind?. It’s not normal for the people that you are supposed to trust the most to make you feel like the most terrible person alive. How do you tell a child that it doesn’t have to be that way? That it won’t always be that way? I wanted her to understand that just because members of her family act this way, it’s not a reflection on her in any way. She is not less than amazing because of her circumstance.

I struggled… was it my place to tell this girl these things? I didn’t know what else to do…

So this morning I sat with this intelligent, beautiful, and clever ten-year-old girl and told her the story of my childhood. I explained to her with the help of our school psychologist (and my very good friend) Sofi, that I also grew up in a home full of abuse. I told her that when I was her age I was afraid everyday. Afraid to get out of bed, to talk, to argue with my siblings, to do poorly in school. My step-father (my mother’s second husband) was very abusive toward my brother and I. With this history of my life, my sweet student looked at me and I told her that it will get better someday. Someday she will be old enough and strong enough to leave that place and can decide how to approach her abusive family. Someday she will realize how amazing and intelligent she is and will have the opportunity to further her education to become the person she wants to be, and not be stuck in the place that holds her captive now. I told her that if she ever wants to talk about what’s happening in her home that she could come to Sofi and I, and we would listen to all that she had to say.

With these words, she smiled at me and wrapped her arms around my neck. In English, I told her that I loved her… which she repeated back to me. I needed her to know that things can get better. She left my company in better spirits and smiling. She knows that the teachers at the escuelita love her.

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This week is Semana Santa in Guatemala… Holy Week. Basically, everything is closed for Good Friday and Easter. The busses have stopped running. Stores are closed. Usually busy coffee shops are deserted. Guatemala City is a ghost town. The entire ‘family’ went on vacation to Panajachel, a beautiful lake that is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. Going to Pana gave us the chance to bond, gave me the chance to spend some time with people who I rarely get to visit with, and everyone had a good time (and got a little sunburned).

On our first night in Pana, we went to dinner at a fantastic restaurant. During our meal in the open air, street vendors would cruise through the restaurant trying to sell bracelets, purses, table runners, scarves, etc. Nine times out of ten, our response was a very stern “no gracias”. The persistent ones kept asking, the rest gave up. At one point, a boy came into the restaurant to sell his goods. On this particular night, I’m not sure if he made any sales. However, the boy left the restaurant with a bag full of our leftovers. He happily sat across the street from the restaurant eating pizza from the bag.

The next day, we decided to return to the restaurant for lunch. Once again we were approached by many vendors from the street. Some of them were very annoying. Another boy came into the restaurant, selling bracelets and purses. We greeted him with a seat at our table, passed down as much food as we could and purchased a good amount of jewelry from him. The boy looked overwhelmed, but ate nachos and pizza that was placed in front of him. He made quite a bit of money from our group of fifteen people. At the end of our meal, we bagged the leftovers and sent him on his way with more food. I later saw him sharing the food from the bag with two other boys.

Later that night, I was reflecting on the experience. We never really leave the ghetto. We never forget about the work that we have been sent here to do. We are so blessed by all that we have. Tita expressed it best by telling me that she “can not have a blessing without sharing it with others”. We are truly blessed to have this amazing life and to be surrounded by so many amazing children in La Limonada everyday. We may have left town for a few days, but when we returned and were in the vicinity of the ghetto everyone lit up. I was so happy to see Astrid (my sponsor child) walking at the market with her family. I’m so looking forward to returning to work on Monday, and to be surrounded by our kids again.

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The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster of emotions. I started yesterday morning with the news that Cherie had purchased my plane ticket home to visit my family in May. I was so happy… not because I want to leave Guatemala, but because it’s been over 3 months since I have seen my nieces, and I miss them so much.

After a productive morning at Limon, I made an unexpected house visit with Tita, Inna, and April. The visit was to the sister of a person I work closely with at Limon. The family issues that this girl is taking on are amazing. Her father left the family to be with a prostitute, who is also practicing witchcraft (the evil kind, not the happy-hippie-nature-loving kind). The father says that he wants to return to the family, but he feels drawn to the prostitute when he is not around her. The girl has also decided that she no longer wants to go to college, which would most likely be her only way out of the ghetto later in life. She has started dating a gang member.

I ended up getting the story behind one of the most intelligent students that I have met… who also happens to be in my favorite class. She’s been beating her sister, who is two years younger than she is. I asked Sofi if I could sit in on the conversation that was going to take place with this student. I needed her to know that she is so bright and beautiful. She has so much potential. She cried. She cries at the school because she doesn’t cry at home. Her mother has left her and her sister with a relative. Her father is dead. Before her father died, he beat her. Once, dragging her from the shower to do so.

On the walk from the Limon side to meet the rest of the team on the Mandarina side, I saw a boy sniffing glue. He couldn’t have been more than 14. Not only was he sniffing the glue, but there were two bottles of glue in a pothole that he was lighting on fire so that the smaller boys could sniff the fumes.

During the Life of Hope meeting last night, I watched Shorty talk to the gang members in a small house on the Mandarina side. About 6 gang members showed up for the meeting last night. It was as if he were speaking only to them. One of the gang members was so into the message that Shorty was delivering… his face lit up, he was smiling and laughing. He was consumed with what Shorty had to say. It was an honor to watch this transaction between Shorty and the members of this community.

I went to bed exhausted, at 8:00 pm. Emotionally drained from my day. My sprained ankle acting up, as I haven’t given it a fair chance to heal… I just keep going. That’s what I’m here for.

This morning I received an email from home. A good friend is in her 7th (I think) month of pregnancy. The baby hasn’t grown since the last doctor’s appointment, and she now has water on her brain. Her survival is not looking so good. This may be the third baby that my friend has had to deliver that will not survive. I can’t stop thinking of her pain.

All of these situations need our prayer and support. Please take a moment today to send happy thoughts, prayers, good juju, whatever you’ve got.

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Living Off The Grid

Recently, my family had to deal with a crisis of another family member. Should she leave her abusive husband with her kids? Or shouldn’t she? Here’s the situation… They were together for about eight years. He has beaten her, stolen from her, and scared her. Yet, they stayed together. She has moved out on him, more than once. She has had him arrested, more than once. She has been to the hospital with injuries, more than once. They had two beautiful children. The physical abuse stopped.

One helping hand, after another, has been held out to her. She would accept this help for a period of time, and then go right back to him. At one point, she takes the kids and leaves. The condition is that she has nothing to do with him, and they will be taken to a safe place. They will have all of the familial support that they can imagine. She accepts this condition. After a few days, she starts to communicate with him again. At this point in the game, they have been homeless for about two months… with the kids. They bounce from home to home, living for a few days at each place. They are unemployed. They are homeless. They have children. They are not able to provide any stability for their family. They are living ‘off the grid’.

This situation has had me thinking about these kinds of scenarios for a while. People all over the world live off the grid. I thought of the people that I met in La Limonada. I am honestly not sure if these people are receiving support from the government. I met children who potentially have no birth certificates. I met children who’s parents are in jail, or not able to care for them. If not for the kind hearts of their local community, these kids would be living on the streets. La Limonada is in the top five for the highest murder rate on the planet. 

What can I do? What can you do?

Don’t close your eyes to the homeless. I have met people right here in Raleigh who claim to stay away from the shelters, because of abuse from other residents. One of the experiences I had in La Limonada was life altering. I didn’t know it at the time, but learned of this later. A young woman came to the “field” (a large empty lot full of rocks, trash, and broken glass), and started to throw a Nerf football with me. She wore shoes with no laces. Her clothing was torn, and her hair was in her face. She wore a floral bathrobe over her clothing. She and I threw the ball for about 15 minutes, and then I passed her onto another missionary… my arm was throbbing, as I am not much of an athlete. I later learned that this woman was homeless… the poorest of the poor in the ghetto. I think of this woman when I pass a homeless man on the street. Or when I drive past a man with a sign saying “Gcrazy land headod Bless” on the side of the highway.  

Consider visiting a third world country. Consider the people who don’t have as much as you. Open your heart to the possiblity of sponsoring a child from another country. Lemonade International has children that need sponsors HERE. If you are not into sponsoring a child, consider sponsoring one of the amazing people who work in these situations everyday. Everyone deserves to be loved.

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