I was blessed to have two great teachers during my six weeks in Guatemala. One worked with me Monday-Friday and the other on Saturdays only.
My weekday teacher's name is Isabel. She's 24 and works at the same school her mother worked at for years until her mother's sudden death three months ago. Her father built most of the chairs, desks and dry erase boards used at the school. Her cousin owns the school.
Isabel is engaged a wonderful young man who's an engineer in Guatemala City, but lives with his mother in Antigua. They are planning to be married next March and I've been invited to return with my wife for the special occasion.
On the first day of class, she struggled to use the word "mother" in a sentence and became emotional. She then told me (in Spanish ) about her mother's death two months earlier and how painful it's been for her since her mother's passing. It was sacred ground and I was honored to walk with her that day.
Recently Isabel asked me to do a Catholic house blessing for a family home and on our last day together we visited the grave of her beloved mother and met with her nephew who wanted a blessing with Holy Water. These are all treasured moments from my time in Guatemala.
This week, Isabel gave me a special "Thank You" card. It read: "You know that I will always be your friend and you can always count on me." I was touched by her words and told her she can expect the same from me. Then I told her I consider her the daughter I always wanted. She said, you will always be "my other father."
How often in our lives are we given such meaningful gifts from friends?
My missionary friends at Maryknoll tell me the most precious gift we give each other no matter our economic or social or cultural backgrounds is true friendship. Friendship bridges the divide between our diverse experiences and backgrounds, and enriches our lives, giving them real meaning.
Paz y alegria desde Antigua, Guatemala.
(Peace and Joy from Antigua, Guatemala)