I was folding laundry, a medium load with lime green polka dotted pajamas, Hawaiian print sundresses, and neon pink shorts. My 8-year-old popped in wondering what she could do to pass time. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. Suggesting creativity was in order, I asked her to think outside the box.
Moments later, I walked upstairs and looked right to find her wiping down the toilet. I figured she was up to something, but continued my mission of getting laundry back on hangers and in drawers. Before long, she came into our bedroom, asking “can you get all of this stuff off of your dresser? I want to make this all clean. I’m going to clean our whole house in case my friend comes over later.” I praised her for her initiative, creative effort, and hard work, and a while later she invited me to see all of cleaning she had done.
The entry way was spotless. She removed what she called “a big mess!”
Her bedroom of cotton candy pink and celery green was perfectly picked up. On top of her bed was the cozy fleece blanket she once noted our sponsored child Bethchaida would love.
And as for our dresser? She managed to displace the clutter elsewhere (which also prompted me to fix a ripped board book that had been sitting there for weeks).
The baby was sleeping, so she put all of the baby’s belongings outside of her bedroom door.
Brother wasn’t home and his room was a wreck, so she shut the door so “nobody would see” or “maybe no one would even know there’s a room there.”
As my daughter led me through the tour of our home, now meticulously cleaned for her friend who might come over, my mind jumped to Angie Smith’s blog post from the November 14, 2012, Compassion Bloggers trip to Peru titled “Esperanza.” That post has lingered in my mind since the day I read it:
She is wiping her brow, and her expression tells me our arrival is a surprise.
The door is wide open and she is welcoming us in, but her other arm motions to the ground, points to the pile of trash, and ends up on the unmade bed on the far side of the room.
I know what she is saying. I’ve done it many, many times myself.
Come in, please…come in.
I wish I could have made it more beautiful for you.
I begin to shake my head before the translator gets a word out, and as he confirms my suspicions I smile and nod at her, assure her that her home is beautiful and we are grateful to be in it.
She wipes her hands on her shirt, explaining that she was just about to leave for the market. I wonder if they forgot to tell her we were coming, or maybe, like me, she’s just lost track of time.
In any case, it doesn’t look messy to me. It’s dotted with stray posters advertising popsicles and bargain prices. Most of them are in English, and she explains that she doesn’t know the words but she wanted to have color on the walls.
She strikes a match and lights a stick of incense, and immediately the room fills with a musty, perfumed scent. She waves her hands, willing it closer to us as a smile finally drifts across her face.
Her son Anibal is 12, and he has the kind of grin that will no doubt make girls weak in the knees one day. I can tell he has a little mischief in him, which I love. He is undeniably charming, gentle in his mannerisms, and shy enough to make you work for sustained eye contact. In other words: a challenge I accept.
His mother begins talking about his animals, and I decide I won’t make the same mistake I did yesterday, when I urged my girls to look at the precious guinea pigs caged in the backyard, only to then have to explain that they aren’t so much “pets” as they are “ the main course.” (continue reading Angie Smith’s post here)
And later in Angie’s post…
She pushes the window open, and then the door.
She’s still apologizing with her body language, no matter how many times we reassure her. She tells us about her other son, a younger boy, who is also in the Compassion program. He receives special services for what they believe to be severe learning delays, and she tells us she doesn’t know how she would do it without Compassion.
One of the other team members begins to ask about the boy’s sponsors: Where are they from? Do they write? What are their names? Does he save the letters?
She motions to the bunk bed where the three of them sleep. I don’t know how long it has been since their father was there, but years at least. She walks quickly, tapping Anibal on the back and urging him in the direction of the bed.
There are moments where you watch with your eyes and know that later, in the quiet, you will hear with your heart.
Her fingers move swiftly, raise the top mattress, and reach deep underneath. Clenched in her hands come letters, one on top of another, and she smoothes the pile and hands it to her son. (read Angie’s whole post here)
Esperanza, a mama in Peru, embarrassed by the lack-of-cleanliness of her home when unexpected guests arrive. Me, my daughter, tend our house like it really matters how clean other people think it is. There’s something that ties us, binds us together across the miles. We’re human, we’re family.
Esperanza, she posts advertisements of popsicles and bargains on the walls of her one-room home for color. And now that I know, I look twice through the magazine I was about to throw in the recycling just to get it out of the way. What pictures might bless our sponsored child, our correspondent child, their parents? What windows of hope might I provide by sending pictures of colorful bugs, a mountain top, a flower-filled valley?
Esperanza, she has her sons hide their sponsor letters under the mattress so they won’t be stolen. I take note, whole-heartedly, and I get it. For the dreams, the secrets of my own heart are hidden away in spaces no one knows but me. And special letters from loved ones? They’re tucked away in those same places. So when I haven’t written our sponsored child or our correspondent child for a while, I remember how precious that contact really is, and I write.
Later that morning as my daughter and I drove in the car, she rambled on and on about her cleaning adventure. She exclaimed “I would love to clean the whole world! First I would clean the insides and then I would clean the outsides.”
She knows knows I’m saving for a trip to visit our sponsored child, but shares that she, too, wants to save her money to visit our correspondent child. In a debate between saving for a manicure and a trip to visit our correspondent child, she decides she’ll do both. “I already have $2,” she says.
It’s true what they say. Once you’ve heard, once you’ve seen for yourself real need, you can no longer live blindly as if the need doesn’t exist. That need? It permeates your being, it changes the way you see, it changes the way you live your life. Because once you know better, you want to do better.
Follow the Compassion Bloggers June 18-22 as they travel to Nicaragua, online at http://compassionbloggers.com/trips/nicaragua-2013/ or on Twitter @Compassion and #CompassionBloggers.
And if you’re ready to make a difference in the life of a child in poverty, sponsor a child through Compassion International by clicking here.