I stood next to her, silent, smiling, trying to grasp what was happening.
Minutes before, while helping lay stones for a road (read: standing around being unhelpful because I kept messing up, typical), I had stepped in a foot deep pile of mud. One of my teammates laughed at my then solidly brown shoes and said “well, they used to pink.” Magdalena came up to me, grabbed my hand, and led me to a stone wash tub outside of her sisters home. She motioned for me to hand her my shoes, and for the next ten minutes, she scrubbed and scrubbed to get my shoes clean, and she wouldn’t let me help. This beautiful, strong woman, who goes through more struggles in a single day than I have in my entire life, took the time to serve me and didn’t want anything in return. She showed up for me in a big way.
After my shoes were, in her words, “mas bonita,” she led me to the backyard. Amidst a field of coconut trees was Magdalena’s sister, Maria, who was cooking. Maria motioned for me to take a seat in the hammock, and told me take a nap. I laughed, and wondered why she thought I needed a nap. I mean, she was right, but was I THAT out of shape that I looked so exhausted after throwing around some rocks (Answer: yes. Yes I am.)? Maria told her daughter to go and get me a coconut, which she then cut open with a machete so I could sit in the shade and have some fresh coconut water. Five minutes passed, then fifteen, then, judging by the look of panic on our trip leaders face when she found me, I would assume closer to thirty minutes passed. We talked about our jobs, and our families, and how freaking good that coconut water was. Me, with my broken Spanish, trying to get my point across. Maria, with her soft spoken, patient spirit, laughing when I couldn’t understand her and dumbing what she was saying down so that I could understand. At one point, she told her daughter to go find a translator so we could speak easier. “She said you’re really good at basic Spanish words, but she wanted some help so you could talk to each other about more important stuff easier,” Genesis, our translator said with a laugh. The first thing that she wanted to talk to me about? "I want a job. I want to work. I want to help provide for my family." Humanity & Hope partners with these incredible, soul-filled villages to provide them with the resources that they need, such as jobs, clean water, and electricity. Over and over (and over) again, we kept hearing that the women want jobs, and they want them now. How sobering of a thought is that? I started my own business a few years ago, and providing for my own needs brings me so much joy and fulfillment. I can't imagine not having the opportunity to do that, and I REALLY can't imagine wanting a job over clean water or electricity. But these women don't, and they do. Humanity & Hope is currently raising funds to start a women-run chicken business in La Cuchilla so that the women can help provide for their families. In honor of #InternationalWomensDay, today I'm giving up my lunch and my beloved Diet Coke and donating that $10 to the women's project in La Cuchilla to help Humanity & Hope start this business that is so deeply desired and needed. Donate here, and be sure to choose Jobs for Women (La Cuchilla).
Maria and her story touched me more than anything has touched me in a very long time. I soaked the rest of that conversation in as much as I could, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
re·la·tion·ship: the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
Relationship is such a powerful word that I think we sometimes ignore the true meaning of. Connection. What a powerful thing. Maria made the effort to not only serve me, but put forth the effort to say “something is in the way here. Let’s do something that will help break down this surface-level barrier and help us build a relationship, build a connection.” I’ve been so struck and humbled by that concept back at home. How many times have I made a new friend, been in a new situation, where things stayed surface level, and I was content with that? What if I took the time to serve the other person, whether that means buying them a drink, or offering to pray with them? What would the world look like if we all took the initiative that Maria took with me? The initiative to show up, and to put forth the effort to build a relationship. How much more intentional would our relationships be? How much more connected would we feel to the world, to the people around us? Relationships are so important to the human spirit. They help us feel loved, and supported, connected, and give us a chance to serve others. Here are three things that I’m committing to work on to build up relationships around me. Join me?
I. Ask hard questions. Questions like, “What’s the road map of your life? The stop signs and freeways that have made you who you are today?” Once you start asking the hard questions, the barriers start to come down, and true connection starts to form. Connection that lets you dive deeper and understand each other better, resulting in a better understanding of how you can serve the other person.
II. Do one thing everyday to love on someone that might need it. I’m not talking about my roommate, or my mom, though I hope I show love to them everyday through my actions anyway. A few weeks ago, a new friend sent me a letter in the mail encouraging me and affirming me in some of the kindest words I’ve ever heard, and I’ve thought of it everyday since. Send an old friend a text with something you admire about them. Buy a $5 Target gift card and give it to that new friend you met last week so they can treat themselves to a bottle of cheap wine. Just do something for someone else that isn’t yourself.
III. Show up. In some way, in lots of ways, everyday. The world needs people who care, who want to make a difference, who understand that what we all need is more love and light. Find a cause, an organization that you care about, grab a friend, and works towards it together. The bond that comes from doing important work together, and an understanding that what you’re doing matters to someone else, is so powerful. I should know — Maria and Magdalena showed up for me in a big way a week ago, and here I am, almost 1,000 words later, still trying to wrap my mind around the compassion that they showed me. Just show up. You really can’t imagine the impact it will have on the people that you show up for. A week ago today, I sure couldn’t have.