By Loretta Shea Kline, managing editor at Unbound
On Valentine’s Day we focus our love on those closest to us, and that’s a beautiful thing. My hope and prayer for this year’s observance is that we also make room in our hearts to love our neighbor, near and far.
The Catholic social teachings that are at the foundation of our work at Unbound call us to expand our understanding of “neighbor” — to embrace our sisters and brothers in our human family wherever they live and whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and religious differences may be.
We’re called to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first, and respect the inherent dignity of every person.
One of the blessings of sponsoring a child or elder through Unbound is the opportunity to practice the virtue of solidarity. As a sponsor and Unbound staff member, I’m doubly blessed because I’m able to get to know my sponsored child, Dinesh in India, and travel to tell stories of families in our programs around the world.
My travels have had a profound effect on my work and on my life outside of work. The children, elders and families I’ve met have helped me see more clearly the meaning of virtues like generosity, humility and hospitality.
Around this time last year, I was traveling in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to cover stories of families served by our program based in Merida. I remember being struck by the unconditional love and acceptance I received.
I was a stranger but wasn’t treated like one. Families welcomed me into their homes and generously shared their trust, food, precious time and personal stories.
One mom, Lourdes, whose son Juan Danilo was still on the waiting list for a sponsor, gave me a beautifully embroidered blouse she made in the traditional style of the area. She is a skilled seamstress, and she’d been teaching embroidery to other moms in the Unbound mothers group so they could earn extra income. And this was even before her son began receiving sponsorship benefits.
Then there was Leydi, the enterprising mom of four whose daughter, 12-year-old Vianey, is sponsored. Leydi surprised our small group, including staff members and parent volunteers, with a delicious homemade meal of panuchos, which are typical Yucatán tacos.
Leydi was motivated by her participation in the local Unbound mothers group to start her own food business. She sold panuchos for the equivalent of 25 cents each, along with other traditional foods. She told me her dream was to someday own a restaurant she’d call “My Little Angels,” in honor of her children.
“My children are my motivation to keep doing my best,” Leydi said.
Her family was also saving part of Vianey’s monthly sponsorship benefits to add a room to their small home. Her husband, Juan Pablo, a bricklayer, was doing the work himself with the help of another person.
I was impressed by this family and their desire to make the most of the support and encouragement they received from Vianey’s sponsor and the local Unbound program.
I was impressed by all the moms, dads, children, young adults and elders I met on my trip to Merida.
They showed me what it means to love our neighbor, near and far.
Practice the virtue of solidarity by sponsoring a child or elder today.