I saw her as soon as I walked into the room. Her bright yellow name tag held her name, but I didn’t need to read it to know it was her. I knew that shy smile from the picture I was given when I first chose to sponsor Maria.
We made eye contact. She blushed and smiled a wry smile, one corner of her mouth turned up. Just like I do. The half-smirk. I laughed. Did she know? Did she know that it was me?
When I sat down to listen to the day’s devotion and presentation, I was two rows behind her, and I stared quietly at the back of her head from time to time, wondering if she would turn around. She did a couple of times, but I was sitting directly behind her, so she couldn’t quite turn around completely without being obvious. I felt my hands start to warm with sweat. I was the one getting nervous to meet her, meet her parents. I desperately wanted it to be a beautiful moment for them, too… I dread the awkward, even though I could probably wear it as my middle name.
The presentation ended and a crowd formed and I couldn’t quite see her any longer. Where did she go? I chatted with a few of my teammates and then, just over the dull roar of the chaos happening in the classroom, I heard it clear as day “Nish, it’s time.”
I walked outside and to the right, and Maria and her parents stepped around the corner. She looked at me, smiled big and wide and shook my hand. I told her how excited I was to meet her, and she said “I was excited, too!” I greeted her parents, too and they shook my hand in the traditional Quechua greeting and I smiled and told them Maria was beautiful. Her father beamed, and her mother said “Yes, she is.”
She looks just like her mother. My heart nearly exploded.
She told me all about school, and the translator explained to me that she is very bright. She does extra math problems at home for fun when her friends can’t come out to play. She plays basketball and volleyball the most, and she loves to paint and read stories.
I told her that I like to do all of the same things, except the math. She laughed.
We sat down on the floor for a little while and I handed her the gifts I brought her. A small basketball, crayons and paper, Ring Pops and a PEZ dispenser, glow sticks, a tiara, a stuffed toy and a Spanish/English Jesus Storybook Bible. I told her it was one of my favorite books and that I love the pictures. She sat, mouth wide open, flipping through the pages. I could only just watch. After a moment, I explained to her that it’s written half in Spanish, and half in English, and that I was going to try to work on my Spanish. She looked at me, determined smile plastered on her face and said “I’m going to learn English.” I nodded.
Our time came to an all-too-soon end and I stood up to greet her parents again and tell them how proud I was of their daughter, and that they are such good parents to care for her the way they do.
The mother explained to me that she works in the fields with her husband and his father, so she is not home when Maria and her two younger children get home from their hour-long journey from school, so Maria takes care of her brother and sister, washes clothes and gets dinner prepared.
She’s only 11.
I praised her mother for her hard work and dedication to her family. Thanked her father for working to provide for his wife and children. I saw the emotion creep up in their faces and flush their dark skin. They both whispered heavily. “Gracias. Gracias. Gracias.”
Maria’s father reached out and grabbed my hand and asked me to send pictures and letters, they wanted to have my family in their home, even though I live so far away.
Now my skin was flushed. I thought of Erik and how much he would have loved this moment, meeting this man with the beautiful daughter. I thought of Rowan who would love more than anything to play with Maria and her siblings.
Our family grew that morning. Five people in Colomi, Bolivia are now part of our family, and we are a part of theirs. We share a common bond – the strongest bond a parent can know on this earth – the love for a child.
Thank you, World Vision for the gift of family.
Do you have room in your heart to expand your family through sponsoring one child today?
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