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Spring 2005. A warm day in Honduras. Five Americans squished into a taxi the size of a Volkswagen bug, bouncing up and down on a winding dirt driveway. A dozen children of all ages running to greet us with giggles, smiles, and eager hands waving. We were here at last, at "our" orphanage. Joy gushed through me at the sight of these bubbly children. And burning a hole in our pockets was a surprise—$700 we had collected. We
were going to make life better for them.
The orphanage was everything we had expected. Dirt lawn with no outdoor climbing equipment. No toys. No living room furniture to curl up in. No TV set. No pictures on the walls. No overflowing refrigerator. Just bedrooms with bunk beds standing tall and stark.
We met the orphanage director, a small, very kind woman. And then the totally unexpected—she refused our money. Shocked by her response, we inquired why. She said that she didn't want the children to associate guests with getting material gifts. She didn't want them to see people as a means to an end, or to look for what's in it for them. She wanted them to have the simple pleasure of giving and receiving love, without an agenda.
Her words hit me with full force, and I realized that these "impoverished" children were the rich ones. Deep sobs welled up in me, and I dashed outside to release my erupting emotions. These kids had what we all long for: real love, deep gratitude for living, and an exhilarating connection to each other—all because one woman stood up for love and what truly matters.
And as I sobbed, I thought of our children in the states, locked into their Xbox 360s on make-believe killing sprees, surfeited in consumerism, boys revering NBA players as heroes and girls dieting desperately to match the chiseled bodies of anorexic models.
I thought of children with stressed-out, have-to-work-to-survive parents who use TV or DVD players as babysitters. I thought of teens bombarded with negative media messages about terrorism and school shootings, without a network of encouragement and support. I thought about our culture that encourages alienation, breeds a lack of purpose, and at the end of life offers only isolation in a nursing home. I thought of my own inadequacies as a parent in this culture.
My heart was jolted, and in a flash, I realized to my core that there is nothing more sustaining and transformative than love
. In a barren Honduran orphanage, one woman had provided these children with a healthy love—and that had made all the difference.
And so I wept. I wept for the poverty of America, and I wept for the counterfeit of love that is devouring our country.
Later we persisted with the director. Was there nothing we could do to help these children? Clothes, you can send them clothes when you return home, was the answer. Not toys. Not technology. Clothes. After all, they already had what really matters.
But what do we give our own children in the name of generosity? A trip to Disneyland. More toys. Fancier technology. Yes, of course, that's what they say they want—the latest iPhone, the newest iPod—but is that really what they want?
In a matter of minutes, in that distant time in a far-away place, I was stripped of my illusion of generosity. And I knew I had to stand up taller for love, for my children—for all children—as this Honduran woman had for these orphans.
It's time to invest in our children, not with things, but with true, loving connection. It's time to learn from
our children and for
our children "the pure pleasure of giving and receiving love."
There is nothing more important.
Jennifer Williams' passion lies in helping parents and couples create loving and harmonious homes and communities where everyone can thrive. Jennifer's life mission is to give children and families the support and skills they need to flourish and to help build a society in which all children are loved unconditionally.
She is the founder of the Heartmanity Center and is a highly sought-after relationship expert and behavioral consultant with a proven road map to heal relationships from the inside out. Yet, Jennifer still prides herself most in being the mother of 3 grown children and in a happy marriage of 32 years. To learn how to quickly shift your life and relationships, visit www.Heartmanity.com.
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