After graduating from college, I did a stint with an organization called Food for the Hungry International, which took me to a tiny town in the Guatemalan cloud forests, where I lived with a family of five in their three-bedroom, one-bathroom home. In quarters that size, you get to know each other quickly, and to this day, I consider that family part of my own.
The mom, Dona Alicia, had recently opened a small comedor, a diner of sorts that operated from the front room of her home. Dona Alicia and two of her friends would convene every morning in Dona Alicia’s tiny kitchen, they would sweat for hours as they made lunch for their daily customers, and they would cross their fingers over each day’s income, that it would yield enough over time to send their kids to school. Times were tough for this family during my stay with them, but I noticed that despite the challenges they faced, they would gather every single night at the dinner table, they would enjoy a modest meal together, they would swap stories about their day, and they would laugh until they cried. Often, I didn’t understand the rapid-fire Spanish they spoke, but I always understood the laughter. Laughter transcends language every time.
Well, six years after I left Dona Alicia’s home, Joe and I traveled back to Guatemala. We thought we’d stop in to have lunch at Dona Alicia’s comedor, but upon arriving there, we saw that it was gone. “Walk a few blocks north,” a passerby instructed us, and so we did. And that’s when we saw Dona Alicia’s new business venture, a wedding venue large enough to accommodate one hundred people.
Dona Alicia spotted Joe and me and came running to greet us. “Jessica!” she cheered. “Look at what we’re doing now!”
Dona Alicia told me that the year I lived with them was one of the roughest years they’d ever known, not only for financial reasons, but also relationally, spiritually, and emotionally. “Every day was a struggle,” she said, “but the rent you paid during that time saved us. I have this large space because of you!”
The truth was that I’d done nothing special that year; I mean, if you live with someone for that long, you are compelled to pay a little rent, right? But what Dona Alicia reminded me was that you and I can be vessels of something important, when our choices help others achieve their dreams. This is what I love most about Noonday: when we do something as simple as purchase a necklace, we serve as a vessel for the woman in the developing world who strung those beads after putting her children to bed, the woman who because of our choice will have fresh produce the following day, or fees for school, or clothing for her family to wear.
One of the greatest roles we’ll ever play is to help carry one another’s dreams.