Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Humility, Gratitude, and Kindness

Recently, our daughter Jenna traveled on a Foundation 4Life® trip to the Philippines to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Dona Justa Guido Memorial School. She was deeply affected by her experiences. Below are Jenna's thoughts and feelings, in her own words.

Humility, gratitude, and kindness are just words. They can bring peace, joy, and even emotions that may be difficult to explain or understand. They are often forgotten. I have forgotten these words many times... when life seems empty or dark or when I am engulfed in myself. Sometimes, tender experiences help us remember that without humility, gratitude, and kindness, we are empty.

My tender mercy was given to me by the children of Angono, a small community on the outskirts of Manila, Philippines. I was welcomed with open arms, flowers, music, dancing, and the biggest smiles ever. The school was decorated with crepe paper, drawings, and items made by the students. School uniforms had been pressed and washed for the special occasion. Their shoes were worn and scratched, many with holes in the soles or soles missing entirely.

Teachers, moms and dads, and students called me "Miss Jeen." "Miss Jeen, look at this!" "Miss Jeen, come see my desk!" Little hands reached out to me, touching my skin and hair, and looking at my dangling, sparkly earrings. Holding out their school notebooks, they asked me to write my name, always followed by a burst of giggles. They took photos on my phone and then showed them to their friends. One girl saw our picture and said, "Look, Miss Jeen, we are beautiful." "Yes," I replied, "very beautiful."

In a place with few worldly things like iPhones, computers, video games, or cars, there was an abundance of humility, gratitude, and kindness. I almost felt ashamed, thinking of all of my possessions. The shoes I wore cost more than these families make in a year. The hot water I bathe in is more clean water than they see in months.

Why is it that those who have the least are the ones ready to give all they have? Why is it that those with empty houses, little food, holes in their shoes, or no shoes at all are the ones who smile the biggest and laugh the loudest? It's because they are kind to each other, take care of each other, and express thanks for what they have, no matter how humble their circumstances.

"Thank you, Miss Jeen. Thank you for bringing us food and giving us new paper. Thank you for helping us, Miss Jeen."

I will never forget those words—"thank you."

 Jenna poses with her new friends at the Dona Justa Guido Memorial School.

These students are excited to use their new backpacks!