Monday, July 2, 2012

“We are called to LOVE and BE LOVED by doing SMALL THINGS with GREAT LOVE.” –Mother Teresa

My name is Sara Joyce and I’ve been an employee of Friends of the Orphans for a little over a year. When I jumped on board, I knew the work we were doing was both necessary and good. Though sitting behind a desk eight hours every day and having this head knowledge, I was still unable to see clearly the impact that each one of us in the Friends/NPH family truly makes in the lives of these individual children. 

The last week in March I had the privilege of traveling to NPH Honduras with a group of seminarians and students from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. This trip surpassed my wildest expectations. I could tell you extensively about the beautiful children, the wonderful staff, and volunteers that I met, but I’d prefer to tell you my favorite story: That of my encounter with one particular child, mi ahijado (my godchild), Osman Ariel Aguilar Avila. 

As I walked along a path at “The Ranch,” I came across a boy who seemed to be crying. Internally I debated: Do I stop? Should I keep walking? Is my Spanish good enough to get me through figuring out what’s going on with this kid? Without really thinking what this interaction would actually look like, I stopped. At that moment, I had no idea the effect that miniscule decision would have. After inquiring and consoling him in my arms while he explained his various ailments to me, his tears dried up and looking me right in the eyes he said, “Como se llama usted (What is your name)?” 

He wanted to know everything about me. Where was I from? How old was I? Why was I visiting Honduras? My favorite color…and the list went on. As we walked and talked while I quizzed him on English (and he tested my Spanish skills), I asked him my own list of questions about himself and as I did his smile grew more radiant. You see, not only did he want to know about me, but he also wanted to be known and he rejoiced in the opportunity. At one point he asked me, “Eres mi madrina?” Without giving it a second thought I told him yes, that now I was his godmother. Never in my life have I seen a more beautiful, pure, and joyful smile than I did at that moment. 

The next three days I spent nearly every waking hour with Osman. I ate lunch in his hogar (the house he lives in with the other 12-13 year old boys). I helped him with chores, we walked together, went to Mass together, played together, we laughed, and had wonderful conversation. I found out that Osman’s father had died recently, his mother abandoned him, and his sister was too poor and sick to care for him. But, interacting with this beautiful 12 year old boy, you would never guess that the slightest thing was troubling him. I also found out how compassionate, caring, intelligent, and funny he is. In spending three days with Osman, my heart was stretched. He taught me about selflessness, about sacrificing for someone else’s good, about joy in the midst of suffering, and about hope. 

Before we said our final farewells we exchanged letters and bracelets. I told Osman how much I loved him, would miss him, how special he was, and that he had the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. Graciously he said thank you, cried again in my arms, and reciprocated the sentiments. While saying good-bye to him left me with a heavy heart, I left knowing that he is surrounded by a family that gives him an opportunity to love and to be loved daily. And while I said my farewell to him, I know that it was not a final good-bye, but “hasta luego (see you later).” Though I may not be able to visit NPH Honduras as soon or often as I would like, I am able to continue being a real part of his life since returning to the States by sponsoring him. 

I may not be able to sustain the entire orphan home in Honduras financially or interact with Osman on a daily basis, but I give as I can. That’s what it’s about—letting the love we encounter in these children permeate every other aspect of our lives. By sponsoring Osman I am able to remain in contact with him, be a support who he knows cares deeply about him, encourage him to be the best that he can, and challenge him to love more intensely. And while in some way I do all of these things, the gift that Osman gives to me is far greater than that, and something I will never take for granted. We can each do our part, and while this looks different for each of us, I invite you to ask yourself the question: How can I make a difference in the life of a child in need?

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