Besides the children at Manos de Amor, we made up some extra baskets for some other families who desperately need help.
First we delivered baskets to our family in Cardboardlandia in San Vicente. Three daughters – three babies. Born to 13 and 14 year old moms. I held and fed and hugged baby Alison. She was happy – she laughed and smiled the entire time. She has no idea what a difficult road is ahead for her. Her mom loves her and dresses her up so she is cute – the same way my daughters did with their baby dolls or Barbies. But Alison is a real baby, a little girl with many challenges ahead.
Her cousins – Lupita and Kevin – were excited to see us. Lupita ran to our car yelling “Abuelo, Abuelo” to Grant (Grandpa, Grandpa). She is tiny – too thin I think – but happy. Although she is 3, she never speaks but definitely knows how to laugh.
Kevin was also excited to see us, hugging us both tightly, his perpetually runny nose mingling with our hair as he grabbed tight. We stayed for an hour or two – Alison’s mom told me she would like me to teach her English, so maybe she hopes for a better future. As we got ready to leave, Kevin climbed in the back of my car and refused to get out. Thinking we would bluff him into wanting out, we started to drive away and his young auntie and cousins yelled “Adios Kevin”. He sat up with a big smile on his face, waved at his family and yelled “Adios” before settling back down in his seat. He was truly hoping to leave with us – where did he think we would go? – and it was heartbreaking to have to wrestle him down while he was screaming to take him out of our car. He was ready to leave with us, perhaps somehow aware of his unlikely future there in that desolate community made of cardboard boxes and pieces of tarps.
Next we drove to Valle de Banderas to deliver clothes, gifts and the food hamper to the family I told you about a few weeks ago – the two little girls who cannot stay at Manos de Amor because they don’t have their papers. Since I wrote that post, their mom has decided she does not want the 2 older sisters living at Manos de Amor either, so all 4 girls are now living with grandma or mom. As we drove up, the oldest daughter ran to our car and threw her arms around us. She has always been closest to Grant and she held him for a long time. We went in the house to give the gifts to Grandma and there were the 3 other girls. A bit shy for the first few seconds but then the two littlest ones jumped into our arms. I truly don’t think I have ever felt a hug as tight as the one I felt from the littlest daughter. She held me for many, many minutes as tight as she could. She simply wouldn’t let go. Grant was experiencing the same thing with the second daughter. They were desperately hungry for our love and we let them cling to us for many minutes. No words. No questions or explanations. Just hugs.
Eventually we left and again our ride home was quiet. How do you process or understand or discuss what we see here?
In our home, as in yours, Christmas has always been a big deal. Lots of gifts and stuffed stockings, fancy brunches and dinners, decorations inside and out. Archie comics, Life Saver books, Lip smackers. Even the pets received gifts. But now I see that for much of the world Christmas is not about getting more stuff. It is a parade in the town square, a party at school, some fireworks in the street and a LOT of music with family gathered close. Today my daughter texted and said “Let’s keep it simple this year. Let’s not get caught up in the commercialism”. I couldn’t agree more. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s hugs some kids, give some time, and spread some hope. Let’s count our blessings and just love those around us. Let’s worship the One we celebrate on this day by loving the least of these.