This letter came from the lady and husband who the Brother Knights worked with in Guatemala, and who we one year had the golf tourney proceeds directed to.
Warm Holiday Greetings
It is 4:00 am and in 5
hours we leave to return home to Canada, completing our 12th year of
service to the poor of Guatemala. What a privilege it continues to be to share
in the lives of the Mayan People.
In 2000 we visited a
family of eight on Christmas Day. The father was a cook at the project we were
working at. He and his wife grew up in the same orphanage, eventually married
and had six beautiful children. Despite the fact that the father had a leg
amputated and was in constant pain from a faulty prosthesis, he walked 5
kilometers back and forth to our school each day to give his little girl an
opportunity at an education.
I remember so well that
day, because it was the most meaningful Christmas of our lives. Our family
joined us from Canada, and we went to an orphanage in the highlands to visit
the children and bring them some small gifts. We were the only visitors that
day. There wasn’t a present or a decoration. Our meager offering brought such
joy to them, but it paled in comparison to the sense of elation we felt, as we
witnessed the spirit of Christmas in ultimate poverty and simplicity. As we
drank our ponche and ate our soda crackers that the Sisters so generously
shared with us, our bodies and souls were nourished in a way that we had never
On our way home that
afternoon we visited our special family. As we entered their humble home, there
on the bed, wrapped in a pile of blankets was a newborn…….new life……new
hope………… The faces of the children reflected the happiness of this sacred
occasion. As the family gathered round, it brought me back to the story of my
“Go and you will find a
babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger.” In this simple
setting, for the first time our family experienced the true joy of Christmas.
Over the years we have
visited this family every Christmas and brought food and small gifts for the
children. Yesterday we prepared our usual basket, but I was not feeling well so
I was not able to go. When Richard returned, he was ashen. I said “Richard,
what is wrong?” He said “Susan if you ever hear me complain about anything in
our life again……………………we have no idea what some people have to face on a
Over the past couple of
years this family has experienced such devastation. Last year this frail little
mother, in her thirties experienced a severe stroke, which left her paralyzed
down one side of her body. The husband was unable to hold down a job because he
had to go to the hospital three times a day to feed and bathe his wife. She has
always had to be the strength of the family and the one who has held them together,
because despite continued efforts to stop drinking, her husband has always had
a severe problem with alcohol.
As Richard entered the
house yesterday, he was consumed with sadness. In the center of the room, under
a pile of blankets on the bed, was now the mother, hooked up to a catheter,
with a package of diapers at the side of the bed. She explained to him that her
husband had run away, because he could no longer cope. In the last year her
eldest daughter had failed her year, because of the stress and the two oldest
boys had dropped out of school and had turned to drugs and alcohol. The next
oldest boy was trying to support the family by working in a carpenter shop for
about $7.00 a week.
I remember this family
so well over the years. Each one of them was a good person, and each
tried to be happy and positive despite their ongoing struggles. But what
Richard saw yesterday was a family brought to its knees by the relentless
dehumanizing effects of poverty. It is ugly. The poverty in this country is ugly!
The poverty in this world is ugly!
This story does not yet
have a happy ending. As the cycle continues of life………death………and new life, we
need to be people of hope. We need to help those who are unable to help
themselves. In the spirit of Christmas this year, find someone you can help. It
will be the best Christmas present you ever give yourself.
Love and Peace,
Susan and Richard