by Lia Huber, Common Hope sponsor and founder of Nourish Network
Lia published this blog post on Nourish Network earlier this week and was kind enough to share an excerpt here. To read her full post, click on the link at the end of the excerpt.
This weekend, I was flipping through the latest Food and Wine when something decidedly unappetizing caught my eye. “Be An Uncompromiser!” the ad’s headline shouted, and in the text below:
“Enjoy the Best of Both Worlds. The makers of Pepcid Complete understand the importance of never having to choose.”
Never having to choose? Hm. I see things a bit differently.
Whether we like or not, I believe our lives are an endless string of choices and that our fate is largely the ripple effect outcome of those choices. I’d even go so far as to say that our choices—whether what to make for dinner or which house to buy—are what define us, and I can point back to the precise moment that cemented my theory.
Ten years ago, on our way home from an extended road trip to Costa Rica, Christopher and I made a stop in Antigua, Guatemala. From the first rumble of cobblestone beneath our tires we were smitten with the town. Quaint earthen buildings in playful colors like turquoise and watermelon pink line the streets, and bougainvillea covers ruins of mansions and palaces and cathedrals. All this in the shadow of three stunning volcanoes.
That day, we took a walking tour of the town with Elizabeth Bell. Under the eaves of a centuries-old municipal building, she told us that nearly 70 percent of Guatemalan children don’t attend school, simply because the books and uniforms (which are mandatory) cost what would be the bulk of a family’s income.
That night, on the way back from dinner, we passed a woman with her three children begging outside our inn. Normally, we’d walk by with a wrinkled brow or, if we were feeling generous, give some money. But that night, for some reason, Christopher got down on the sidewalk and played with the kids. Their mother and I laughed so hard we were leaning on each other’s shoulders as the kids tickled and climbed all over the giant stranger.
A few hours later, we were awakened in the middle of the night by the innkeeper pounding on our door. Our truck had been broken into. We ran out, half-awake, and found that someone had broken the window, reached in and grabbed one bag before being scared off by the alarm.
The rest of the day was a blur. We spent the morning filling out forms in the police station and the afternoon driving through Guatemala City searching for someone to fix our window. But what stands out for me is our lack of immediate reaction. We could have cussed out the innkeeper. We could have accused people on the street. We could have written off Antigua, and Guatemala altogether, and headed the next day for the Mexican border. But, for some reason, we didn’t.
It turns out that Christopher and I were both thinking the same thing: the junk in our “catch-all” bag—the one that had been stolen—was worth enough to put a family of children through school for a year … children like the ones Christopher had been playing with the night before.
So we made a choice. An eyes-wide-open, go against the norm choice.
We decided to return to Antigua and, rather than try to recoup what had been stolen, give an equivalent amount back to the country and the people that had touched us so deeply in such a short period of time. Looking back on that choice now and how profoundly it has shaped my life still stuns me. If, ten years ago, Christopher and I had “not chosen” and just gone the usual route of angry indignation, my life now—and the lives of at least three others—would be nowhere near as rich as it is today.
The rest of the story
We remembered that Elizabeth had told us about an organization on the outskirts of Antigua that helped impoverished children and their families through education, skills training and health care with the support of sponsors and we thought we’d start there. When we got to the campus I expected to see shame in people’s faces, as we tend to see here when people are standing on a welfare line. But it was just the opposite. These people exuded pride and strength and resolve.
As we learned more about the program, it made sense. Common Hope wasn’t about doling out to those in need—nearly everyone in the country was in need. It was about empowering those seeking to change their circumstances and holding them accountable during the process. We signed up that day to sponsor Rene Antonio, a six-year-old boy being raised by a single mom, and met him and his family the next day. There were a lot more laughs, and hold-my-gaze-and-search-my-soul silences, and hands squeezed tight that expressed whole-hearted gratitude. Rene truly became our God son and our families extended parts of each other.