Gratitude 101

Once again, I cannot possibly read this while at work, please take me to the pics!

When our family in the U.S. sees pictures of us on our website, they are thrilled that we look so happy.  Even though they all knew deep down that this was the right place for us this year, I think everyone was worried that Guatemala might just suck the life right out of us.  For this reason, they all wanted to send a huge thank you to our host family.

So, when Kerri, Owen and the kids hopped off the plane in Guatemala City on December 26th for the start of their 7-day visit, they were carting with them two giant suitcases stuffed with gifts from Scott's family, Gab's and friends too.  After experiencing Christmas Eve here in Cantel, the pile of loot seemed like gluttony to us.  Still, we knew the family would sincerely appreciate everything that was sent.

There were hats, gloves, shirts, shoes, jewelry, toys, sweaters, pajamas, candy, and much much more.  We stuffed bags full for each member of the family.  We decided to spread the love around and before Ker, O, Abby and Josh left with us for a mini-vacation, we gave each person in the family one gift.  They were really grateful and in return, they gave every one of the Brands a recuerdo (gift to remember) of Guatemala.  Then after our return in January (sin Brands), we interrupted the normal chit-chat after dinner one night by bringing the bags into the room.  

Everyone was very surprised.  We explained how our families were so worried about us when we first came and how now, they see, via this site, how happy we are.  Our family and friends are so grateful to them for opening their home to us for a year and taking care of us during our time in Guatemala.  We explained what a huge sacrifice - and for us, a gift - it is to give so much of your time and effort to strangers.  We told them these gifts were the best way that our families knew to show their overwhelming thanks.

When we said all of this, they acted as if their gift to us was nothing much - just part of the normal routine.  In fact, they said that we had been a blessing to their family.

Then, the unwrapping began.

The two younger boys dove into their bags.  They wore all of their hats at once.  They plunged into their sweatshirts.  They attacked their toys with wild abandon.  They laughed and smiled and traded goodies with each other.  Marlon danced a Soul Train dance while Eduardo tried to pull up his hat brim so he could watch.  They both wore their gloves and rubbed the rubber palms on their faces to see how "grippy" they were. 

Yadira found a small case of jewelry at the top of her bag.  This stopped her in her tracks.  She inspected every pair of earrings meticulously, placing them each in a separate spot.  She untangled necklaces, and giggled out loud when she saw there were three of them.  Everyone else in the family asked if they could have one.  She felt so spoiled.  It was twenty minutes before she would dig into the rest of her gifts - the sweaters and the tennis shoes.  It was like she was getting ready for the prom or something.

The two older boys thought their gloves would be great for playing goalie during their next soccer game.  They put on their new t-shirts over the top of their clothes.  They wore their hats backwards, like all the cool kids do.  Finally, they learned the art of stuffing their Pez dispensers, which provided a good laugh for the whole family.

Graciela thought her tiny angel figurine looked like her son, Josesito.  She laughed with her mouth open when she first caught sight of it.  Her shoes fit like a glove, and she modeled them like she was on her way out to a fancy dinner date.  She immediately took off her sweater and draped the new blue one over her shoulders.  She hugged herself because it felt so warm.  

And Martin laughed at his HUGE sweater-shirt, and pulled the hood over his head.  He said it would help him keep warm in his sewing workshop.  He especially liked his new black Mazda jacket.  The socks fit just right, and he got a kick out of the tiny angel figurine too.  The room was buzzing with excitement.  There were laughs and smiles and thank-yous and WOWs.

Then it all stopped.

Everyone got serious.

Graciela asked the family to join hands in a circle.  She wanted to pray for our families.  For the Dannemiller's and the Kubo's and the Brands and all of the friends who had thought of her Guatemalan family this Christmas.  Martin started.  He blessed all of our families.  He thanked them for their generosity.  He prayed for their safety. He prayed for continued blessings on all of them.  He continued for quite some time, and then he was finished.  I thought we were finished too... then Graciela said her own blessing, echoing Martin's words and adding more of her own.  They were heart-felt and sincere.  The prayers and blessings continued around the circle.  Eight-year-old Eduardo added his sentiments.  Marlon asked God to protect everyone.  Yadira gave thanks for our presence in their house.  The older boys did the same.  They prayed for us all.

When they were finished, they thanked us again.  Scott had to turn away 'cuz he had tears in his eyes.

Thank you God for this family, and for the gifts they have given us.  May we always remember the true spirit of Christmas. 

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