A couple of weeks ago we went to Mass on Sunday morning in La Esperanza as is our custom. Both Laura and I had a sense of déjà-vu as we sat in the familiar pews that have become our own. It’s May, the month dedicated to Mary. Any given Sunday in May, the faithful come to the church with spring flowers to present them at the altar of Mary. I recalled, we both recalled, that on one of our first visits to the church we encountered the same celebration. I had even written about it in this blog on June 2, 2014. It dawned on us that we’ve had our home in La Esperanza for an entire year now. This does not seem at all possible. It only seems like weeks ago that we watched the pious procession of May flowers.
A full year has passed for us in this quaint little town of La Esperanza. It has certainly gone by like lightening. I suppose that comes from our sense of welcome and familiarity. We are tremendously content and grateful to be here. I recall how anxious we were when we first came to Honduras. We were bouncing around from place to place, from organization to organization, and it didn’t seem like we were going to find a fit. But, after all the bouncing around, the anxieties that we wouldn’t or couldn’t appreciate the culture, and the uncertainties of finding an organization where our goals and its goals could mesh, by fortune’s fate, we have eased into a feeling of home.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, we’re only in La Esperanza now on the weekends. We spend most of our time in the extremely, rural town of Concepción. Our home there, rented for us by Shoulder to Shoulder, is very comfortable, but Concepción is so small we’d likely go bonkers on the weekends looking for things to do. But, in La Esperanza, we have a thriving social life. We’ve befriended a whole array of US volunteers and ex-pats. We meet them at the supermarket, or at the restaurants, or walking along the streets. We think of ourselves as La Esperanza’s welcoming committee for gringos, having had many of them to our humble home for dinner. But it is not only the English speakers that greet us with familiarity. Walking down the street it is not at all uncommon to hear someone calling out our name: the restaurant owner, the hardware store couple, or one of the teachers from Maestro en Casa. We have become part of this community, and it yields such a sense of contentment.
After so many fits and starts with organizations, it was refreshing to find Shoulder to Shoulder. The philosophy is what really draws and sustains us. There is a commitment to collaboration with Hondurans that is rarely witnessed by other charity organizations. This sometimes makes for difficult and challenging work. Oddly, Hondurans don’t always agree with American imperialistic ideals (I’m being purposely hyperbolic). There is always give and take, the messy, exhausting, and frustrating work of maintaining relationships, but at the heart of the mission is a sense of dignity and integrity. We also never have enough financing, the budget is always in the red, but we use black ink to record the measure of our hearts. I don’t suspect I’ll be remembered for my money, and I don’t want to be anyway. Besides, it’s me that’s been enriched for being here.
We have plenty of work. In fact our job descriptions have doubled or tripled since last month’s board meeting in Tegucigalpa. We were “hired” as the Directors of Communication and Development. That was enough work certainly. But now we are also part of the on-site brigade management team, organizing and executing all of our service and medical groups, about eighteen a year and growing. We are also taking a strong leadership and development role at our bilingual school. We are busy. But both of us love the work. It sustains us.
Settled, content, anxiety free, connected, enriched by friends, unencumbered by money, and just plain happy, we really couldn’t ask for more.
There is more, though. As I write this, we are two days away from returning to Massachusetts for a short visit. Though it is always important to reconnect with family and friends, this time it is truly special. Laura’s daughter Emma married Kay a year ago in a civil ceremony. They did it with some haste for legal reasons of convenience. Kay is a naval officer and Emma is working as a Social Worker and returning to school for her MSW. They are an amazing couple, truly committed to one another and their dog and two cats. They also just closed on their new house and moved in last week. What we are going home for is the celebration of their marriage with friends and family. It will be Friday, May 29th. This will be such an exciting event. Though I am not Emma’s father, and she has one who is a tremendously loving parent, I still feel quite proud. Still, that is not all. Emma and Kay are going to return here to Honduras with us. They will visit us in La Esperanza and Concepción. We have not yet had the experience of a personal or family visitor. How wonderful it will be to share with them all that has inspired and sustained us. After their time with us, they will head off for their honeymoon in the beautiful, tropical island of Roatan, Honduras. Unfortunately, Laura and I are not invited. With any luck, I can convince Laura to go before we leave Honduras.
When I was still a priest and people would share with me some particular joy from their personal lives, I would always respond with the same phrase: “All this, and heaven too.” I suppose it was a way of honoring their joy, but for me it was simply a pat phrase. I never really reflected too much on its meaning. But, after a year and a half living the dreams of our hearts, I guess I’m much more aware of how singularly important happiness is.