By: Betsy Tousley
This is Betsy. I am here in Guatemala for the second year, with my daughter Sarah, who is almost eight. My husband was planning on attending, but at the last minute had to return home for work. So, what was going to be a “family trip” is now a “mother-daughter trip.”
That’s interesting to me, because what has been catching my interest a lot this week (so far) is mothers and their children. It caught my attention last year, as I felt similarities with mothers here (maybe in things God “hard wired” into mothers, maybe in things mothers just do as mothers): we take care of our families to the best of our abilities with what God has given us; we cook and feed, we establish our home (and clean it), we bathe and clothe, we give to those we love. While I may live in the U.S. at an economic level which would be considered extremely wealthy here, and I may be serving mothers and their families who are living in extreme poverty, these commonalities have not escaped me again this year.
During this trip, though, I have been more deeply noticing one facet of the Guatemalan mothers with whom I have interacted. They give. Though they may seemingly have little, they give. When we come into their homes to build a stove, they want to give us anything they can to say thank you: expensive bottles of water or soda, which may, for them, be as costly as several meals; go figure, when they might have running water two days out of each week, that’s not even purified….or they may give vegetables and fruit—lots of it—whatever they have available..from bananas, to avocados, to broccoli, to mangoes, to pears, to…..(you get the idea). They may gather it from trees that feed their families, or crops that they grow to feed their families or sell (to feed their families). It is incredible to me how much they want to give. They give their verbal thanks, yes, but their hearts are so full of gratitude that they want to give to us at a COST to themselves. A cost that hurts…..not just something they can do without. Not just a meager token of their appreciation. A cost that hurts because it means they significantly do without.
In addition to this, I received a precious gift from a young teenager (guessing…maybe 12 or 13?) today. It blew me away. To thank us for building a stove for her family, she hand-made gifts for three of us (girls/women) on our team. To two of us, out of cardboard and printed paper, she made the most amazing boxes. They are kind of in the shape of birdhouses, with a lid that lifts like a mailbox. She painstakingly covered the cardboard in pretty pink, purple, and black printed paper so that the insides and outside of each box were completely decorated. The paper is held together by decorative tape, carefully connecting the corners together. On the front of each is a silver-colored sticker of fruit. It must have taken her HOURS to do each box. And to my daughter, she presented a painted bottle in gold and purple and green, intended to be a special vase for flowers. Again, an incredibly thought-out and thoughtful gift, made from what she had, to share her gratitude. (Now, I ask you….do you know any teenagers who would spend so much time to show their gratitude?) One thing was clear: the gratitude I observed in the mother was most likely taught to and observed by her children, and the children were as grateful as their mother.
I am going to keep these precious items….my box and my daughter’s vase….in plain view when I return home to remind me how blessed it is to give. While the Bible reminds us that it is more blessed to give than receive, the Guatemalan mothers I have met this week have shown me what that verse truly means when it’s put into action. May God bless them as they give gratefully, and may each of us give freely and fully with our most grateful hearts when God calls us to give….especially when it costs us.