[In April, Sister Parish board members and founders traveled to Central America for a special 25th Anniversary Delegation. This month, we’re posting reflections from delegates about that experience. This reflection is from Sister Parish’s founder, Vicki Schmidt. You can read other reflections from the 25th Anniversary Delegation here.]
There’s no end to possibilities for how I live out my life, but right now what I want to do most is to be a grandma to my four beautiful grandchildren. So when I was challenged during my recent visit to El Salvador and Guatemala to find the best way to work for a justice-filled world, I wrestled within myself how to balance social justice work with being a grandma. Hearing once again the heart-twisting stories about systemic abuse and inept and oppressive governments, and about the long term effects of past civil wars and current gang violence on the daily lives of people, the nagging considerations kept surfacing: “What do I do with all this? I just want to be a grandma.”
A Salvadoran man, who during the violent civil war in that country during the 1980s fled with countless thousands into Honduras for safety from the massacres and torture of civilians, shared his people’s perilous journey of repatriating into their homeland amidst the raging war. Every day was exceedingly difficult, dangerous, and frightening, as the thousands of people migrating toward home were constantly at high risk. Many lost their lives on the sojourn. A member of our group asked the man how they are passing these stories down to the next generations so they are not forgotten. The corners of his mouth turned upward into a knowing smile as he said, “If the stories are in your blood, you have to say them.”
When I think about being a grandma, I realize I have that same opportunity and responsibility. The stories are now in my blood; I have to say them. I have to tell my grandchildren what I have seen and heard and felt as I lived and traveled among people whose lives of suffering have called forth a depth of courage and faith I have never personally experienced. I have to explain to my grandchildren the not-so-pleasant reality that my country – their country – has been partly responsible for some of the deeply rooted problems in these countries. I have to share with my grandchildren what it means to stand up for something they believe in, that which is right, and tell them the stories of the martyrs. I must model kindness, respect, and treat my fellow human beings as children of God. I must help my grandchildren understand that the world can be changed one person at a time, and each of us needs to do our part. I must place in their hands the scripture, and live with them the meaning of Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
It’s got to be a grandma thing, perhaps my most important calling.