Champagne to Christen a Ship…How Do We Do That Mexican Style?
After every house we build we do a dedication…a christening…a blessing? We haven’t figured out the right word to describe it yet, but it is the same idea as breaking a bottle of champagne on a ship…without the champagne and the ship. It is the opportunity for the group to give well wishes, blessings, parting words and to share their own hopes with the family for the families future. Each time we do this it takes has a different flavour to it, depending on the group, the family and the relationship they have with each other. The common thread is that it is touching and seals what we have done. It allows the family to express any words they have for the group, gratitude is always present as well as laughter and frequently tears. At one of our sites there was a feeling of energy and celebration. The students gathered together donations from their spending money and purchased ‘extras’ for the house. We ask what the family needs most and go on a hunt to find it here. As we were unloading the truck full of beds, I was observing the father of the family as he watched what was going on. Mexican men are a proud sort, I could see through his quietness that his eyes were filled with…gratitude? Relief? Hope? It was a mixture of strong emotions as he watched teens from Canada provide for his family things he could not. And through it all, his dignity as our students presented his children with gifts bags. There was no feelings of pity. No one was playing holier-than-thou. Our students were naturally respectful as they interacted with the family they had grown to like, love and appreciate. Hospitality is a big part of the Mexican culture as well. Our students had the opportunity to express themselves, interrupted by bursts of activity as the family made sure the table was set up and the coke was available for everyone’s enjoyment. Culturally, it was most important for them to be able to extend hospitality, which was appreciated on a hot afternoon like yesterday. That was not enough for the family though. We are all invited back today at 2pm for a meal with the family. It was to my relief that the students also bought the families groceries that day, we can rest easier knowing that we can accept their hospitality without worrying that they will not be eating because we are. Our second site that we did was a more emotional experience. Alberta and Amelia are the two sisters who are single mom’s moving into the house out of tarps and plastic. Their children now have beds, Jose Luis, who is around 6 yrs old, will not have to sleep on the dirt floor anymore. Their first wish was for a stove, which our students bought, complete with a propane tank because the family does not have electricity. When we were giving out the gifts for the kids, I made sure that Jose Luis had age appropriate toys in his bag. We also had gift bags with school supplies in it that we were going to give them as well. His mom asked if she could exchange the gift bag. It was more important to her that her son have a pencil for school than to have toys. That cut me to the heart; I throw out pencils before they are used. I assured her that we were giving her son school supplies…as well as toy. During the speeches, Rosa, who is the mother and grandmother of the family, apologized for not being able to provide food for the group. Her desire for generosity and hospitality when she had nothing to give was quite moving for the group. A lesson of selflessness and gratitude. It was very satisfying for the group to leave the project site knowing the impact they made on this family. In the day that we were not there the family built a table out of scraps we left as well using the paint to spruce up a few pieces for furniture they already had. I am confident that this house is going to allow this family to develop, and grow way beyond their previous capabilities, and I am confident they will take the opportunity. I love these days.This is my last blog for this trip, it was a great group, a fantastic way to cap off the summer. Much gracias to all the Mexico participants of Summer 2007. I appreciated the opportunity to get to know each and everyone of you and a looking forward to seeing what you guys can do t change your world and mine! I BELIEVE IN YOU!