Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fertile Seeds of Change

Gems of wisdom and experience are seeds we cast in daily conversations, in interactions with the young as well as our exchanges with peers. Seldom do we see where these seeds land. Many will  fall on barren terrain but hopefully some fertile soil.  One of the greatest thrills I experience is finding that one of my seeds not only set root but also bore fruit that has changed a life. This is a delight. It comes with the understanding that I have been part of a great mystery.

If you follow the Face Book page of my award-winning book: Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey, you know I have a single mother’s project in my area of Honduras. One of the first mothers I helped fishes for a living. While she was pregnant and could not work, I showed her how to make jewelry from broken glass that washes up on the beach. Selling these to tourist shops, she made enough income to feed and support her children and even buy her first overhead light for her house. After she gave birth and the baby had reached the age of 3 months, the doctor released her to go back to fishing.  Our plan was that each of the two occupations would take turns supporting her; fishing in good weather, making jewelry when the rains came.  The state of her economy and activity improved so she even bought a washing machine on credit to free her time from the labor-intensive hand washing for a family of five.

Then the unforeseen happened. The fruit company cleaned their trenches, pushing chemically treated soil into the waterways. The river ran brown driving the fish far out to sea.  As weeks turned to months the water began to clear, then early fall rains began discouraging tourist travel.  This mother told me that she was 3 months behind on her water and 2 months on her electric. The power company had notified her that they would disconnect. As much as I hated to see her caught in this bind, my mission was to help mothers help themselves. To lend her money only added to her debt load, to give her money only weakens her. I chose to buy her a chicken, dried beans and vegetables to feed her family. Her bills were up to her. 

It was a week before I saw her again. She came to my gate with a gift of fresh fish. The weather had cleared and she was back out to sea. When I asked about her situation, her face broke into a smile.  She had made soup from the beans I  gave her, then rode her bicycle around town until she sold it. This brought enough money to pay her utilities with a bit left over.  The extra money bought a bus ride into town and jewelry beads.  She worked all afternoon making necklaces and earrings then mounted her bicycle again. She sold her jewelry all around the barrio and did not return home until she had the money to pay her washing machine installment.  She told me that in the past, when a problem with money arose, she would only look for a way around it. Now she knows that a problem always offers a stairway to overcome it.