When I was really small I used to name my hero as my uncle. Man, he was the coolest, but he was also the kindest and the most generous. With time I realized he had been my hero because he was so much like my grandfather. I always worshipped my grandpa, but it was not until I was older that I could see all that he truly was. One got to know my grandfather not only by talking with him, but by observing him and by listening to the stories of others. He was a humble man with no need to flaunt his good deeds, but you could see it in his actions towards others and heard it in the tales of compassion that others shared of things he had done for them. He did good, not for the glory of it, but silently, out of his love for others and for his Lord. He was the best man I knew and truly a saint here on earth. I will forever be inspired by him and call him my hero.
My grandfather passed away back in August, my first week in Argentina. Although it was very difficult to grieve so far from family, I was blessed to spend time with my grandfather and say my goodbyes before leaving, knowing he would soon go to the Lord.
One hero passed on this past year while in Argentina and another was born into my life. While these individuals are from two very distant places and born in two very different times, I see them both as heroes for similar reasons.
Paula runs the comedor at which I worked. In fact, the comedor is basically in the garage of her home. She is a small but fierce woman with a heart for others unlike anything I've ever seen. Paula works a full time job as a social worker, then returns home and puts the rest of her time and energy into the comedor and those in her community. She has a family of her own, all of whom also sacrifice for the cause for which Paula fights. She does it not for the glory, but out of love. I doubt many outside of La Plata know Paula's name, but let me tell you, almost everyone in her community does.
Every mother knows she can turn to Paula for help. Every family knows she will listen, judgment free and with understanding. Every worker at the comedor knows they can turn to her for guidance. Every school knows they can turn to her when a student needs additional help. Most importantly, every child knows she is there fighting in their corner and believing they have what it takes to succeed.
People like Paula and my grandfather are rocks to those around them. They are strong, sturdy, never-ending sources of love and support. Personally, they are deeply inspiring. I used to think I had to do something grand with my life. I wanted to make some huge difference in the world. I've grown up a bit and with some help from my heroes realized I don't need to save the world. By my goodness, if I can be the endless source of love, strength, and encouragement for those around me, if I can be for my community what Paula is for hers, if I can believe in those who have no one else in their corner, that will be enough.
Before I left, during a meeting I was asked if there was anything I’d like to say to Paula about my experience working at the comedor and working with her. I immediately broke down in tears. I couldn’t express in words what I felt inside and the ways Paula and the comedor have impacted my life. Just as I couldn’t adequately express myself then, the words on this blog do no justice to Paula, the comedor, and the work they do. She has given me insight in what I want to with my life and shown me the kind of life I want to lead. For that and for so much more, I am eternally grateful and will forever see her as a hero alongside my grandfather.
Thanks to everyone for your love and support this year! I could certainly use some prayers as I transition into life here in the US and figure out what’s next. If we’re lucky, we might get one more blog out of me on some reflections over my time in the YAGM program…no promises thoughJ
A portion of the kids and workers of the comedor, Compartiendo un Sueño, during an outing to the park!
My grandfather and a couple years ago during a family picnic at the beach.