Today, in Canada, is Thanksgiving. It is a holiday Monday, a celebration, a time to be thankful for the fall harvest and eat turkey and stuffing and potatoes and squash with family and friends. There are always so many things to be grateful for, but it is easy to get caught up in frustrating, impatient moments, to forget to breathe and appreciate each day.

Today I made two trips to the Cancha, the giant market downtown which has everything you can imagine, to pick out new clothes with some of the girls. They all have lists of things they need, specifically new jeans for this Saturday’s anniversary celebration. I love shopping, especially with others, but this afternoon was hot and we were thirsty and we weren’t having much luck finding clothing that fit/that was affordable/that the girls wanted. The girls were getting tired and frustrated and so was I, but amidst the stress we encountered some very gracious, caring vendors and some great deals! One woman promised to bring more girls’ clothing to her stand, because I told her more of our girls would be shopping there the rest of the week. She also let the girls pick out a video for free, and they chose “High School Musical 2.” Both the morning and the afternoon group, even after being a bit impatient (and trying my patience), said “Gracias, Tia” after arriving home and seeing the new additions to their wardrobe. We experience gratitude in the daily happenings, and gratitude in a big celebration like thanksgiving.

Celebration and sorrow, life and death. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reminded of the reality of living in this world, which is that death happens. This cycle, the beautiful messiness of the world and the mix of emotions, always surrounds us and penetrates our lives. And because our lives are so intertwined, one death influences many people.

Hearing about Manolo’s mom on Saturday night came as a shock. No matter how sick someone is, or how “certain” their passing away may be, it never makes it any easier. I never met this woman, but I am getting to know her son and my heart is hurting with him, and with the others here in our community. I was spending time with some other volunteer friends on the weekend, and we were talking about how overwhelming death and dying seems to be right now, both here in Cochabamba and in the overseas communities we come from. I have been mourning over some deaths in Hamilton, my city back in Canada. I was reading an essay by Wendell Berry a few weeks ago, and this passage helped me a lot and is something I want to share:

“love must confront death, and accept it, and learn from it. Only in confronting death can earthly love learn its true extent, its immortality. The world of love includes death, suffers it, and triumphs over it. The world of efficiency is defeated by death; at death, all its instruments and procedures stop. The world of love continues, and of this grief is the proof.”

Grief is a process, and when we grieve with those who are hurting, when we “suffer with” them, love is showing its light. And amidst the grief and the death, there is also a lot of life.There are the first steps and first words at PDC, the new accomplishments at CDP, the happy energy of the girls practising their dances for the upcoming anniversary party, the joy of little Manolo going down the slide at the PDC playground. And there are the special gifts from strangers, people who reach out and show they care, like the woman at the market who helped us find affordable clothes and gave the girls a DVD. These things are remembered with gratitude.

Enjoy the ‘life-filled’ photos and video. Gracias, until next Monday,


Manolo entranced by the camera.

The younger girls practicing their dance for Saturday’s event.

And the most enthusiastic dancer of the day 🙂