|The boys who probably didn't realize the impact a milk distribution center would have in their community.|
When I start to get distracted, I think about the people that I’ve met connected to Heifer International’s work. I remember their faces so clearly and their stories so deeply that it immediately reminds me of why giving is so important. It’s not always about finding the perfect gift, or making sure each present has the perfect bow, it’s about freely providing someone with something that is immeasurable.
With my first Heifer trip to Zambia I meet these three young boys – due to a language barrier they couldn’t tell me their name and they didn’t understand mine. The one thing we both could understand was a smile and kindness. Their town had just built a milk distribution center, which was bringing in a lot of positive change.
To many in the village this meant new jobs, new opportunities, and nutrition. To these three boys who might not have understood how it all happened, I knew it meant a new future for them. For even families in villages who aren’t associated with Heifer still reap the benefits due to our models of Sharing and Caring and Passing on the Gifts. I may never meet these young boys again, but the gift of Heifer gave them a new future that they may not have known before.
I also met a dairy farmer in Kenya whose pride of his hard work and accomplishment was inspiring. It’s not always just the giving of the cow that is so important, it’s giving families the hope they need for a better future for them and their families. When you speak to Heifer farmers they are always so proud for what they have and what they will be able to pass on to their children. Their first thoughts are about how they can continue to give more, when they’ve just received something themselves. It’s true giving.
But I’ve never been more in awe of a group of women as I was when I met this group of ladies in Zambia. (I never saw any men in this community.) Many of the women had been widowed or left once they tested positive for HIV. That didn’t stop them from perusing personal and financial security for their families. They applied to be part of a Heifer program and worked hard to receive chickens and training they needed. Once they began to improve their nutrition, they were able to sell the extra protein for income and could then afford medicine they needed. One gift can truly safe a life.
Of all the faces I will never forget, it’s of the mother and daughter standing behind me in amusement while I hopelessly tried to pull water from the well. This is a day and moment that still brings me a personal moment of silence when the holiday hustle and bustle gets to be too loud.
Every day, the young girl in the grey shirt would walk a mile before school to fill a bucket of water, then walk back. She had no shoes, but she had an enormous heart. She was able to go to school but still understood how her family needed her. When we got home from school, she would make the journey again. I walked with her and her mother (and sweet brother on the right) to get water one afternoon. It was grueling and exhausting. After working very hard to pull the bucket out of the well with water inside it, you still had to lift it up and carry it back. It took me many times of not sloshing water all over the dirt before I could catch on. Even then, I was no good and wasting so much of the water that we had worked so hard to bring back. The young girl helped by carrying my bucket and hers at the same time. She gave to me the most priceless thing she could, her compassion and understanding. (Incomparable, I gave her my old running shoes.)
This holiday season, when it’s starting to get too overwhelming and you feel like you’ve lost a little holiday spirit, remember the faces and stories of Heifer’s work. When someone asks why you decided to give a cow, tell them that you gave hope, joy, and new opportunity to so many people who need it. And more importantly, give the gifts they receive over and over again.
This holiday season, try giving back to the world. It might just give you things you’ll find immeasurable to your life. This year, #GiveHeifer.