Counting your blessings this week for Thanksgiving? We are, too. Blessings #1 and #2: The people we serve and those who serve with us, and the many faithful donors and supporters of World Vision’s work around the world. Thank you.
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I was in the Dominican Republic last year with World Vision.
On our last day there, the World Vision staff in Santo Domingo threw us a “goodbye” party. At some point during the festivities, I was asked to say a few words and then pray.
I don’t remember what I said exactly, but I remember what happened after I finished. As I handed the microphone back to the sound guy, a woman grabbed my hand. And when my other hand was free, she grabbed it, too, and cupped them inside hers.
When she had my complete attention, the woman began talking. I couldn’t understand what she was saying as she spoke in Spanish. I thought about stopping her so I could look around for somebody to translate her words, but so much was happening around us — talking, laughing, shouting, music, and dancing — that I felt compelled to keep my eyes on her, listen closely, and experience what she was saying.
Looking into her eyes, I could see so many of her stories. A hundred narratives of joy and hardship, regret and faith, were written into the lines of her face, on the calluses of her hands, and in the soul of her eyes.
And while I didn’t know the details or the situations or the names of the faces, I understood something about her story.
As she talked to me, tears formed in both of her eyes, then trickled down each side of her face. Sometimes her hands squeezed mine more tightly. Once, I watched her face light up with a glorious smile, only to end up with tears in her eyes again.
At some point, one of the translators walked over and put her arm around the woman. She didn’t interrupt. She just listened.
When the woman was finished, she embraced me and whispered prayers in my ear.
“She’s grateful that you have come here.” The translator put her hand on my back. “And she wants you to tell all of the people in the United States how grateful she is for their help.”
While I was thankful that the translator showed up, I somehow already knew what the woman was saying. How? Because while a simple “thank you” can be expressed with only words, heartfelt gratitude is expressed with our whole being. We read or hear a “thank you,” but we feel and experience gratitude.
So from that dear woman in Dominican Republic, may you feel her gratitude today, may you know how grateful she is for the hope that you help her find.
Matthew Paul Turner blogs at JesusNeedsNewPR.net and is the author of over 10 books on faith and the church.