I am an unashamed idealist. It doesn’t affect my view when people laugh as I claim that the world is a product of our creation and that we have all the tools we need to change the parts we don’t like. Despite (or maybe because of) our extensive travel and our exposure to difficult things, I have not wavered from my belief that there is enough in this world for everyone, that people are inherently good, and that small actions make a big difference.
This week I arrived back in Guatemala. I came to meet my friend, Jennifer. “Friends” look different in my world. Many of the connections we make are virtual and some of the people who “get” me on a deep level are people I have never even met in person. Jennifer is one of those people. So, I booked a ticket to Guatemala, to meet a friend I had known for over two years but had never seen face to face.
When I arrived, she introduced me to Imelda, a friend she met last time she was in Guatemala. I had known about Imelda for some time. Jenn had been posting updates and images online as she helped Imelda sell her weavings for a fair price to friends back home. Jenn claims she gave up on “changing the world” long ago but, for Imelda, she has been doing just that.
Imelda almost lost her house. With a husband who drinks and several children to take care of, including two she has taken in, Imelda fell behind on house payments. With an additional commitment to getting her children all the way through college things were looking desperate financially.
I gave up, a long time ago, on the idea that we can change the world. I don’t have that kind of strength or energy. Most days, it’s all I can do to keep my focus, keep my own little herd moving forward on a productive path and maybe find a little time to write. I can’t do the big things, but I can do a myriad of little things and I’ve dedicated my life to not missing them.
- I can feed people dinner
- I can bake bread
- I can make tea
- I can make folks welcome
- I can look with an intent to really see
- I can listen with an intent to really hear
- I can take a few pictures and upload them
- I can use my sphere of influence to lift one burden here and there
I woke up worrying about Imelda’s house. $600 USD is a small fortune here, several months work for a well employed man. We’d decided, whispering in the dark, that we’d cover it if we had to and find a way to create enough work for her to make it up, but that’s no one’s first choice. It’s humiliating to have to accept charity, even when you absolutely have to. So I posted pictures and wrote to “my people” about my friend Imelda and her situation, and I waited.
Within a day, Jenn had sold every single one of Imelda’s weavings and was able to bring her $1845 for her work. The world changed for Imelda. Her house is secure and her daughter just left for college.
But $1845 will not last forever. Imelda has been on her knees, in the dirt, weaving as many pieces as she can, hoping she can sell as many as possible before Jenn and her family leave. She has created more pieces than I thought possible for any one person. Time is running out and as each piece sits unsold, Imelda grows a little more worried about her family’s future. For a myriad of reasons, Jenn is her only lifeline to a market she cannot tap herself. When Jenn leaves in 6 weeks, so does Imelda’s opportunity.
I bought a piece of Imelda’s work just before Christmas. It was beautiful and I gave it as a gift. Imelda has hugged me every time I have seen her and she continues to thank me shyly for that one simple purchase. I hope she sells every single piece.
I love people. I truly do. I love people like Imelda who hug strangers and are committed to working hard in order to make the world just a little better for their own children. I love people like Jenn who focus on individuals and change the world in a million little ways. I love people who buy these pieces, committed to helping a stranger they have ever met. I love the 11, 16 , and 18 year olds- all from the same family- who raised hundreds of dollars on their own to help Imelda because they already “get it”.
People are truly wonderful and I know there are some more wonderful souls out there who can help Imelda. If you wold like to help, you can do so here. The link will lead you to Jenn’s album where every piece is photographed, listed, and priced.