Monday, August 20, 2012

The Most Generous Hearts

I’ve only been back in El Salvador since the 6th of August – having had the joy of being present at the wedding of my son Thom and his new wife Kayla.  I am such a lucky mama.  And Thom is a lucky man to have found a partner such as Kayla – and as an added bonus – he has a whole group of “out-laws” who are absolutely fabulous – from his actual in-laws to the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins … And poor Kayla is stuck with us haha!

Anyway.  I’m back here now and within 3 days we hosted a small but mighty delegation from my own Heartland Presbyterian Church in Clive.  It was a varied and interesting week which flew by.  I posted lots of photos in an album on facebook so please go check them out. 

And tomorrow (the 21st) we get to host a new group of folks who will do dental workshops in a couple of schools.   We will be in Las Delicias and Colon.  We will be with the children at the school in the mornings and with their parents doing workshops in the afternoon.  I’m very much looking forward to learning about this group – their history as well as their hopes for future work.

So – with the couple of days in between our delegations, we had some commitments: some formal (like the great meeting held in Corozal) and some not so formal.  One of the not so formal events is what I want to share today.

We were invited to go to La Llanes.  It was a social invitation.  They wanted to share some sweet corn with us.  This was an invitation out of love and friendship and gratitude.  Some of you who regularly read my blogs have an idea of who they are because I’ve written about them before.  They are a small community of 24 extremely poor families.  Most of them related - as off-shoot communities often are.  Their community is way off the beaten path and down a “road” that scares the be-jeebers out of me even when that “road” is compacted and dry – but WORSE when the “road” is wet and muddy.  Which, of course, it is now – being 3+ months into the rainy season.

Bless the Pastoral Team’s hearts … they asked Alejandro to drive us.  Now, mind you, this does not make the stretch of road any less scary.  I just get to have my heart attack standing in the back of the pick-up rather than driving.  Long story short – we made it safely both in and out of the community – me with my eyes closed and praying as we fish-tailed and danced in the 100 yards that are the worst.  Thank you Alejandro.  I taught you well. But even YOU were scared … admit it!!  Haha.

The trick is to STAY IN THE RUTS!!!!

(And for the record: I don’t mind fish-tailing in mud – there is no getting around that because there is mud everywhere this time of year.  We have a great pick-up truck with a strong engine and 4x4 and I’ve learned quickly how best to not get stuck in spite of the fish-tailing … but when you fish-tail with a mountain you can touch from the driver’s seat on one side and a long drop off within a couple of feet on the other – that is what makes my heart beat fast.)

But I digress from my original intent of this blog …

I LOVE going to La Llanes.  I love the people there.  No offense to anyone else in the communities because I have a great love for all of them – but there is something about these people.  Perhaps it is in part because they are such a small community.  And if there is an event – or you visit … almost everyone shows up. 

And from our very first visit – when we had never even met them – we felt a kinship.  They were warm – greeting us with hugs – they quickly shared their senses of humor (which here often takes a LONG time to emerge with strangers). 

So this day – this invitation to share their sweet corn – we could not refuse.  We didn’t want to refuse.   This invitation is even more special in the fact that we all know that with the drought – corn did not grow very well.  Losses ranged from 25% to 90%.   We know they suffered loss.  But they wanted to share.

Recently, I read an article shared on Facebook saying how the poor seem to be more generous in their charitable giving and generosity proportionate to their income than the rich.  Having lived here permanently for almost four years – this did not surprise me.

But the timing of this invitation was within a couple of days of this article.

We have poor in the States.  No doubt.  But not like the folks in La Llanes. 

On the table there was a ton of foods!  This food was for us as well as the rest of the community – which is another oddity: often we are invited to share a snack or a meal and WE are fed and everyone else looks on or leaves us alone while we eat (such is the custom here in El Salvador).  But here they shared with everyone in the community.  On the table:  a huge bucket of corn on the cob, a huge stack of ‘riguas’ (like a potato pancake but made with corn), atol de elote (a hot and very thick corn based drink), tamales (which I got to help make to the delight of the ladies working) and tortas (a corn based fried patty with sugar on top YUMMY!!)



Atol de elote

Tortas de elote

Was I concerned about consuming so many corn products?  A bit.  But that did not stop me from enjoying all the gifts.  We all sat around the table talking and eating.  Then a man got up and picked up a small ‘guitar’ and started tuning up.  In the corner of the building we were in (which was someone’s house that also serves as their place of worship) there was a regular guitar, a bass, a conga type drum, a ‘set’ of 2 drums with cymbols and a cowbell, and a couple of other traditional percussion instruments. 

People started to pick all those things up.  They were asking people to sing … but no one had the ‘song book’ so no one really wanted to commit to singing … but there happened to be a visitor from San Felipe in the village.  And he has a reputation for singing … (I did not know this – even though I’ve known this man for a very long time!) and he was asked to sing.  After a wee bit of arm twisting (not much really haha) – he said he would.

Within minutes the music was in full swing and we enjoyed at least 8 songs –

What fun. 

Sadly, Cecilia had a meeting she had to attend so we had to leave. 

I very often feel overwhelmed with love here:  friendship, generosity and a welcome that is deeper than I can express. 

It is times like these that make it so hard to leave. 

I have been truly blessed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kathy, thank you for sharing this post about the people in La Llanes. Many of your posts are so touching, like this one. It is SO true how the poor are so much more generous in proportion to what they have > pp who have more, especially in El Salvador - they can teach classes in generosity here. Fresh atol is so yummy, isn't it? One of my favorite foods ever in E.S.