As we all know, Father’s Day is this weekend and as we celebrate the gift of fatherhood, the blessings of fathers and/or the joy of having men in our lives who symbolize the goodness of fatherhood to us, I wanted to share this story and offer a blessing to all fathers and all men who have positively impacted my/our lives.
It’s about one sip at a time……
Many years ago, in fact, year one of the Mission of Hope, we had arrived in Nicaragua, a country utterly destroyed by a massive hurricane and subsequent loss of life that totaled over 20,000 deaths in Nica, El Salvador and Honduras.
We had arrived, green behind the ears and living without electricity, minimum water and a sense of being overwhelmed by the cries for help. One particular cry for help is forever etched in my soul.
We had decided to assist in helping to feed the local community, and couldn’t believe it when hundreds and hundreds showed up with their children. The vast majority (over 85%) were mothers with their children, so obviously, when one man arrived with 4 little tykes and a baby in arms, I was intrigued.
I went to speak with him and we learned that during the hurricane, this man had lost his wife during childbirth and he was holding a child named Esperanza – which translates as HOPE. Odd, huh? Anyhow, this man had walked many miles with his little ones because he had heard that a group of gringos were on the compound and distributing food and providing healthcare. The sad reality? We had just run out of food that day and had no way of getting or preparing any more. I explained to him that we hoped we could provide more the next day, but through my tears, I apologized with a deep sadness because I thought we couldn’t help.
He responded by saying: “That’s ok- maybe I can find ‘just a sip’ for the children. And then, maybe we can come back tomorrow. Just a sip? I thought. That would never feed his 4 toddlers and the one infant. But this man knew something I didn’t. All it takes is a sip of love, a sip of hope, to give someone courage to keep going.
I handed him a cup of water that I had and he handed me Esperanza, the baby. He took the cup while I held Esperanza/HOPE, and shared it among his 4 other children. Fortunately, we had brought a little baby formula so we did have something for the littlest one, “hope- esperanza”??? Yes, indeed….
He hugged me and said, “It is ok, Hermana (Spanish for Sister)…a sip helps. We will come back tomorrow”. A SIP HELPS! Of course, it does. While it may not quench the extreme hunger or thirst, it is a sign of love and of hope. And yes, he came back the next day and we were able to feed his children and provide some shoes (that’s a story for another day).
The whole scenario was quite unusual, because, as we’ve learned through the last 19 years, many of the fathers do not “hang” around and help raise their children. Anyhow, back to the rest of the story…
Five days later, in the wee hours of the morning, we were boarding an old bus to head back to the airport for our flight home. Still green behind the ears and still deathly afraid of flying, I scanned the crowd that had gathered and there was this man with his 5 little ones. He/they had walked miles again, knowing full well we had no food to give them because the day before after feeding them, I explained we were leaving the next day and I asked for a prayer because I was afraid of flying.
And as I started to apologize to him that we didn’t have any food to give or leave with him, he folded his hands, looked toward heaven and told me that he had come back to offer a prayer to me/us. He said that he knew what it means to be afraid- because he was afraid when his wife died and left him with 5 children and that he was afraid that he wouldn’t know what to do or how to take care of them, but many people had come to help him. He then told me that he was praying this particular morning that the Blessed Mother Mary and his wife would “be on the wings” of our plane, to get us home safely!
Okay, so it’s been many years since I’ve thought about this man and his blessing for us and I find myself filling with tears as I recount the events. I realize this man is absolutely correct…”it only takes a sip!”
It only takes a sip of kindness, a sip of hope, a sip of compassionate love to strengthen us and to fill our cup for journey of life. Actually, for those of us who are Christians, this weekend, we will celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ- the Gift of Eucharist- so this story is timely, not only because of Father’s Day but also because of this special feast within many Christian Churches.
Well, I want to share with you that I am convinced this man already lived “eucharist, i.e., thanksgiving” far better than I ever can! I am convinced, over and over again, that this man and so many thousands of others who have crossed my path, represent what it means to live and be the hands and heart and feet of Jesus among us. And I reflect on the scores of wonderful fathers, grandfathers, nephews, brothers and friends…. men in my life, who have grown into what it means to be a father, to be a man who understands that “it only takes a sip”.
Not everyone I know has been blessed with a great dad and I also know some fathers who had to grow into love, grow into fatherhood, grow into being the one who can love “one sip at a time”. But that is the HOPE of celebrating Father’s Day- it is the gratitude of knowing and loving fathers who provide for their children, one sip at a time! May they be blessed in this responsibility and may all the fathers who read this note, be blessed and honored this weekend. Thank you all for being “one sip at a time”!
Remember….living and being hope happens “one sip at a time”!
Sr. Debbie Blow, OP