It is a time of year to be thankful. When even those with little gather what they have in order to celebrate what they do. Where busy hands fill the kitchens of homes all across our country to prepare an array of dishes to mirror just how many things we have to be thankful for. Both young and old hands share the work of brewing coffee, grilling meats, roasting vegetables, mixing ingredients, spilling sugar, filling pans, and cleaning up the giant mess a feast leaves behind.
I was recently volunteering with Operation Smile in Guatemala and wandering the streets I came across a scene that mesmerized me. I didn’t understand why in that moment, but I knew I was taking in something special.
It was simply a corner by an old stone wall. One of the many ruins present in modern Guatemala. Three women sat working amidst a pile of their own creations. Their eyes spoke of unity and their cheeks were more comfortable when smiling. A comfort like a blanket surrounded them.
Two ancient hands wrinkled like dry earth manipulated a plethora of strings. With a youthful precision these ancient hands introduced one beautiful color after another. Her daughter and granddaughter sat to the side while the woman pushed and pulled at the web in front of her. The plan was already formulated but I was simply lacking the knowledge to see it. Little by little a beautiful ancient pattern began to take a colorful prominence at the base of the loom.
Looking back I can see why this moment moved me. I can see family working together to create something beautiful. I can see an understanding of how individually simple movements could work together to create intricate and beautiful creations. I can see how interconnected we all are. And the power of taking the time to smile while fulfilling your work.
I see these same things manifested all the time around me in the work of Operation Smile. There are so many pieces of the Operation Smile web all around the globe that when pushed and pulled together manifest in teams that resemble family. A family who stands for hope and relishes in the work they do.
I have been so fortunate to travel with Operation Smile all around the world. To see the power of what they do and just how much impact they have. To see the initial guiding strings first arrive to gather information and make partnerships. Then having the details and the supplies sorted before the international team of volunteers arrive. Really so much work has already been done before we hit the ground.
Once the team arrives the patterns start to take place. Each individual becomes far greater than themselves with the partnership of the team. Alone none of us could make a huge impact, but together we change hundreds if not thousands of lives if every country we visit. We leave behind families made whole again. We give children the chance to have a childhood. More than anything we inspire hope.
Everyone I’ve met through Operation Smile has become like a family that is so full of love and inspiration. People who are willing to sacrifice and work so hard for other generally love their lives and the world around them. This makes the act of giving so rejuvenating and inspiring that going on missions becomes almost necessary. I can think of no greater way to travel and see the world than to serve the communities you visit.
I’m in love with trying to make the world a better place and searching for the beauty in the world. A patient in Guatemala wrote a quote on the wall that said, “If you keep searching for all the beauty in the world eventually you will become it.” Well I don’t expect to become it, but it is an honor just to be able to see it. May you all have full bellies and homes, and even more importantly be surrounded by the love of those important to you.