This past weekend I (Cassie) hiked up the side of a mountain with a woman in her early sixties, listening to her recount and share stories of her childhood. After our conversation I was reminded of the fact that we all have a story, and that my own story is being shaped and developed by the people who have invited me into their lives here in Nicaragua. Often these stories are remembered and retold because of hardships and the ability to overcome; stories of hardship, of joy, grace and love. My hope is that one day I can look back on my story as a daughter, sister, mother, wife and friend with joy, grace and love as I journey down this path of life.
This woman's story began in a very rural part of Nicaragua. She was born into a very economically impoverished home. Her mother felt like she was not able to care for her needs, so at age six she gave her daughter to a woman from the city. Her mother thought she was giving her a better life, but instead her daughter became a laborer, a slave for this woman and her family only receiving the basic necessities for her survival so that the family could continually benefit from her hard work.
From age six until she was engaged and married at age seventeen, she lived and worked in the home, making food, cleaning, washing, performing any chore that was needed. She was given small portions of leftover food and was forced to eat in the corner. If she misbehaved or was unable to perform a specific task her caretaker would burn her hands in the cooking fire in-order to "teach her a lesson." For all accounts, her childhood was lost to a world of work and hardship; a world without love or grace.
As I listened and reflected on our steep walk together, I could not imagine how this kind of early life experience would affect ones mental health, feelings of self-worth and capacity for future life. However, she was determined to give her five children something different. She raised her children with love and care, never using physical force or punishment and they are now all healthy and successful adults. She is a loving and devoted mother and grandmother, a blessing to those around her, and a true example of resilience.
Stories like this happen often. Whether I am sitting in a rocking chair at my neighbor’s home or hiking the side of the mountain, I have been invited to listen to many stories. Some of these stories are very heavy, others are light. I am so grateful for the friendship and trust that people have willingly given to me. And with stories like this, I am often reminded of how at the very same time life can be both heavy and light.