I was privileged to host the adult forum at my home church, 1st Lutheran Church in Decorah, over each of the past two weeks. Essentially I was asked to talk about the work of Winds of Peace Foundation and specifically our experiences in Nicaragua. I have presented at church previously, perhaps 5 years ago and with not too much experience in my resume. But this time I felt as though I could speak more knowledgeably, more experientially, and more personally about the foundation work in which I am fortunate to participate. Having a total of 90 minutes to tell stories of Nicaragua and its various peoples is not a great deal of time, but it’s enough to convey some of the most salient histories and realities of our Central American neighbor. I enjoyed it and expressed my gratitude for the invitation to represent Nicaragua’s circumstances both past and present. Of course, that necessarily included some less-than-flattering revelations about how the United States has acted as a neighbor, always a touchy topic with any U.S. audience.
My objective in speaking with any audience on this subject is to spur some different thinking, to tweak a conscience here or there, or at least generate some curiosity about the circumstances encountered in Nicaragua. If I’m really successful, people might even walk away with an interest in the plight of the poor anywhere in the world. I have no allusions about spawning a movement or changing people’s life priorities, but rather seek to plant a seed of thought or doubt that might, in time, be nurtured to flower in some future springtime moment. My audiences over the past two weeks have seemed interested and attuned to my stories, and for that I am always grateful.
Among my reflections was the topic of gratitude. It is relatively easy, of course, to recount the gratitude of Nicaraguans who are recipients of support from WPF. There should be no surprise about that; people who are in dire need will treasure even the smallest help. But there is also my own sense of gratitude for the life lessons that I have been taught by people who, by some measures, have seemingly nothing to teach. That may be the bigger grant that is bestowed during the work being done in Nicaragua, the gift of seeing life in a different context, of witnessing courage, perseverance and hope in very difficult circumstances. My gratitude is already endless and yet still growing.
And at the end of my stories this morning, I experienced gratitude in yet another form. A number of listeners told me that they felt grateful, not simply grateful that I had agreed to make presentations on a couple of Sunday mornings, but that I had raised an awareness about some very marginalized people in another part of this world who do count for something. Whether through the photos which I shared or the stories that I told, for some a connection had been made. And for them, it was not merely the realization of that connection which moved them, but a sense of thankfulness to know a little bit about a very few Nicaraguans for a very short time.
90 minutes may not allow for any deep intimacy, but it was enough to touch some hearts. That was good work for a Sunday morning. Maybe I could do more of it….