Friday, December 22, 2006
I had an experience just before leaving Majuro for Christmas at home with my family in California that I'd like to share with you. It inspired me to be a little more kind and generous this Christmas Season:
Before leaving Majuro, I had a goal to visit as many of the families in our branch as we could, especially those who have health difficulties or who we haven't seen at church for a while. My sweet friend Mary agreed to go along with me again. Her help was priceless because not only does she also have a great love for these people, but she's able to communicate it beautifully in Marshallese (something I'm not yet able to do). During the week she is the head of housekeeping at the resort, and spends exhausting days on her feet. Visiting on the weekends and evenings means that she is willing to spend more time on her feet instead of relaxing. Yet as we were walking between houses she told me that "I will go, I will do" is her favorite line from the scriptures, and it certainly characterizes her attitude about life. So I baked massive quantities of cookies (I'm no expert, but I've become a decent cookie baker of necessity. I've found that cookies really help to make people smile and know that we care) and we tramped up and down the island both Saturday and Sunday visiting nice people.
We had several more families on our list to visit as the sun decended on Saturday, but we ran out of time and had to go to a meeting at the church. When we arrived at the church we found that the meeting had been postponed (Marshallese time) so we took the opportunity to visit 3 more families. I was so grateful we did. One of the families we met was the Kamo family, and when we visited them, Hemila (the mother of 2 beautiful girls) greeted us with a smile. They live in a one room little house on the Oceanside of the island. We gave them cookies and my phone number in case they should need to reach me. When she heard that I was leaving on Monday, she took a box and pulled from it a beautiful and ornate necklace and bracelet that she had made. She put them around my neck and wrist (this is a Marshallese tradition, to give the one leaving gifts so that they can share with the people they visit). In the conversation that followed with Mary (which I didn't fully understand until later when Mary explained it to me in English) she explained how grateful she was for my phone number and our visit because last week she had tried unsuccessfully to reach Mary by phone. Two months ago her husband had a stroke and was now unable to provide for thier family. Last week she had run out of rice to eat and was in a desperate condition. She had sent her handicrafts with a friend to beg the shops in town to buy them, but there was no guarantee they would, and with Christmas approaching, life was looking pretty bleak.
When I learned about the situation, I was so impressed with the generosity of this lady. Here she had very little to feed her family for the coming week, yet she was so generous toward me to give this beautiful jewelry that she had spent many hours making (and possibly could have sold). We returned to her house after the meeting and asked if she had any other handicrafts I could buy from her for Christmas gifts. Unfortunately most of them were with her friend still, but she did have a couple pieces there which I bought. She said in Marshallese, "Thankyou so much, my family will now have something to eat for Christmas". Her husband was also awake this time and he was just as kind and generous as she was. The whole experience just transformed me and made me resolve to be a bit more generous this holiday season. Hemila taught me about being generous even in the thick of personal trials, and Mary taught me about being generous with our time and energy and love. I have been reminded that giving money is not the only way to be generous. We can be generous with our time, with our patience, and most importantly with our love. I believe that this is the true spirit of Christmas.
I'm so grateful for these two lovely ladies who reminded me what is really important during this stressful, crazy time of year. I hope that any of you who read this will be uplifted by their examples, too. Merry Christmas everyone!