Giving Back — October 26, 2016

Faith, Family, and Our Part to Play

by D’Anne Maddox

D’Anne Maddox from gives a high five to a grinning child in a Guatemala City slum.

People say a lot of things when you tell them you’re leaving the country for outreach work. My personal favorite? “You’re going to want to bring all those kids back with you.” And it was true. Before leaving the U. S. to visit clean water sites with Healing Waters International, I’d seen pictures of children in terrible living conditions. Before I left, I already wanted to check a few extra bags to bring my daughter some new siblings. (My guy traveling companions would already assume nothing less, right?) I saw hurt and I wanted to fix it. And I thought that fixing it meant giving others a life that looked like mine – like American life.

When I arrived, however, I realized I was wrong.

The families I was blessed to spend so much time with were rock solid. Even as my heart was broken for some of the living conditions, I was surprised to find that I envied their love and commitment to what truly matters. I realized that just because their housing or technology wasn’t the same as ours, that didn't mean they were the ones missing out. In fact, they weren’t distracted by “things.” They were completely focused on faith, family, and community. My eyes were opened to the fact that the children I thought I could help by bringing into the ease of life in the States were actually better off right where they were, surrounded by love.

In a way, it reminded me of being a foster parent. Even when I wanted to bring all the kids under my own wing and take control of a chaotic situation, I was reminded that the best thing I could do was provide consistent support and fill basic needs by meeting the kids where they were.

We talk about helping other communities as being an investment, and in a way, that’s true – but the investment in love and the right focus has already been made by the people themselves. Clean water, business training, health and hygiene education – everything Healing Waters is devoted to makes their quality of life so much better and more sustainable, so that these families can continue to focus even more on what really matters. It was a humbling reality check, but also an incredible encouragement and reminder that we “privileged” people can help, but how we help may look different than we expected. We are learning, too.

Guess I’ll just plan to check one bag from now on.

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