In August, Love & Hope Children’s Home welcomed Molly. Molly is from California and was connected to Love & Hope through a friend. During her stay, Molly helped with homework and filled in as a caregiver when necessary. Her free spirit and energy was mesmerizing for the kids; they constantly sought her out to read a story, dance, play a game or just talk. Below she shares some of her personal experience at Love & Hope:
My month-long stay at Love & Hope challenged some of my beliefs and helped me find ways to draw on strong currents within myself as it brought me close to a special community.
Before I came to the home, I had negative feelings towards two of the essential identities of Love & Hope: children’s homes and Christian missions. I had heard only criticisms of children’s homes, either because they fail to address root causes of unhealthy family environments or because they themselves, in famous cases like the Romanian orphanages, are often damaging. The community I live in—one that is quite academic and Leftist—is cautious of faith, and several people had told me before leaving “not to get converted.” I was raised Jewish but am currently examining my spirituality.
Love and Hope made me feel differently. The institution and the people in it are loving and thoughtful; the warnings I had received about organizations that provide kids with shelter but overlook their broad life context did not ring true. Instead, the staff strives to understand and work with the cultural and personal currents that contribute to the life of each family associated with the home. Furthermore, the home’s employees are conscious of the dual cultural influence (American and Salvadoran) with which it is raising the children and tries to make the best of this potentially confusing circumstance. Workers share a deep desire to create a personalized, full, and nurturing life for each child, and they form a strong, caring foundation at Love & Hope as a result.
The way that the home’s employees and volunteers regard their Christianity is similarly personal and formidable. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak extensively with many Salvadoran and American individuals about their faith and I consistently received thoughtful, unique answers to my trying questions instead of the dogmatism I had been prepped to encounter. I was inspired by the commitment to service, compassion, and exploration of self and God that those with whom I spoke felt called to embody through Christ. In the end, the services we attended weekly at the Union Church as well as the Love & Hope Youth Ministry were one of my favorite parts of my Salvadoran excursion. The grateful, celebratory, and musical atmospheres made me feel joyful and thankful, and coming together with the same welcoming communities each week was a memorable ritual. I don’t feel comfortable declaring myself a follower of Christ, but I have a newfound respect for those who do.
My other substantial encounter with something new was that which I had with Salvadoran culture. I felt warmth and generosity there, evidenced by, for example, an invitation to a birthday party for a neighbor whom I had never met. I also noticed a sense of interpersonal relaxation, which I came to see as an absence of a salient part of U.S. culture: the cult of personality. In the States—especially in San Francisco, where I’m from—there is a popular belief that within every person rests a colorful and interesting identity waiting to be expressed. This sentiment allows for great diversity and creativity of self but also causes pressure to be unique, always fascinated and fascinating. In El Salvador, there is instead a satisfaction with the current moment and with it the current self. People are accepting of difference, but do not demand it.
For our part, we also learned a lot from Molly! Her inquisitive nature and beliefs about childcare and psychology made us think and consider our reasons for doing things. Molly’s originality and confidence also demonstrated to our children (and adults!) the importance of being yourself.
In our next posting we will share the second half of Molly’s reflection.