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A Development Worker's Open Letter to Her Son

August 25, 2018

 

My dearest Dylan,

 

I find myself writing this after a difficult goodbye session this morning when I left for work. You will be asking a lot of questions soon, and one of them will inadvertently be why I have to leave you every day. I know a lot of parents resort to the classic, “I work to earn a living and buy the things our family needs, and the toys you want.” Most days, that is true for me too. But I also want to describe to you the things I have seen in the communities I work with, the lessons I have learned from ordinary and extraordinary people I have encountered, and the warmth it gives me to see smiles on faces that I felt I was partially responsible for. I also need to tell you about the the darker side people often gloss over --- of hungry children living in squalid conditions, of broken down schools peddling equally broken down dreams, men and women with eyes brimming with conflicting anger and resignation. I want to describe to you the jubilant and the desperate, the noble and the petty, the beauty and the madness that I got to know because I do what I do. Most of all, I want you to understand that I am the mother I am because my life beyond our front door defines me too. 

 

I am your mother, first and always foremost. I pledge to you my whole heart and soul. I will try my best to nurture you, cheer you on, provide you gentle guidance, and show you everyday that you are the one I love the most. But I am apologizing in advance for days you would want me to stay beside you and play and i cannot. There are nights in the future I will not be able to tuck you into bed and kiss you goodnight. There are even times when I get home and I cannot shake off what I have gone through for the day --- when a dark cloud hovers above me and I just need time to re-assimilate my belief in humanity. Do not worry for this passes, and it's you --- you again, you always, you forever --- who lights up my world.  

 

But there are other people I have to show up for. People who haven't had good experiences about people showing up for them. Men and women and girls and boys caught up in difficulties, sometimes of their own making, but often times not at all. I travel the world to rally on people who are also trying to make a difference in the lives of the oppressed and the marginalized. I have to share with them stories of resilience and sustainability, and how a group of people can make a difference to humanity one fraction at a time. I help in nurturing strengths of individuals and whole communities who wants to transform their tragedy into triumph. I am a foot soldier on the march with countless others of a similar goal --- to leave the world better than we got it. A kinder, more caring world for you, my son. 

 

When you are older, I will bring you with me and show you what I mean by all this. I need you to see this world, D. You will grow up in the age of Social Media, and already I am concerned how to teach you to perceive the authentic and to identify pretension. The world you live in will try to convince you to be angry, to be sad, to pretend to be happy, to want all the toys, to want all those gadgets and fripperies and bells and whistles. However, in the real world, there are people living without a lot, and people who has a lot who will give it all away for one kind word. When you see the world that I see, it will humble you and make you understand a whole lot more than you thought you would. My hope is that showing you this world will help you define who you really are, what you really need, and what values you will never compromise in the face of pressure and difficulties.

 

It is such a nice thought to think you will follow our steps (your Daddy and mine) when you grow up. But then again, unlike your friends who are children of doctors and lawyers and businessmen, I do not care that much that you follow in my steps. Because I am hoping that by the time you grow up, there is less need for the work that I do. An improbable thought, but one can hope. And I guess, as a mom, a part of me wants to shelter you from the pain. Other jobs are harder than mine, because they are physically and mentally straining. But to be a development worker, you also need to secure your heart and fortify your soul --- mindful that you could lose it in the flooding of despair coming from the people you are trying to help. You need to protect your tiny candle from the winds and the storm because sometimes, it's the only light that people in the dark can see and you will need that light to pass on the spark to another candle, and another, until the world is illuminated. You need an anchor in this line of work. And my anchor is my Faith, and you. You again, you always, you forever.

 

This is how I can leave you at the door while you shed your tears, your eyes showing the betrayal you feel. It shreds my heart to think you are feeling abandoned and unimportant. But my son, there is nobody else more important to me. I close my eyes and remind myself that the work I do, is for you. A world that is kinder, more caring to you. You again, you always, you forever. 

 

 

Love, 

Mama

 

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Sharing this to colleagues, mothers and fathers working in development 

 

 

 

 

 

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