We stood in the kitchen of one of the apartments at Eagle’s Nest. For many of the women, it was more like a castle – there was running water, an electric stove and oven, and cabinets full of dishes.
The women had come from as far away as Guatemala City and San Marcos – most traveling by school buses long since retired from active duty in the United States. For 24 hours, they would sing, be inspired, swim, and be treated like princesses with manicures and massages, make beautiful things to adorn their homes, and attend a baking workshop where they would learn how to decorate cakes and make pies.
Every woman was beautiful. But there was something about the abuelas – the older women dressed in ropa typical with calloused hands so small they could fit in my palm, the women whose eyes told a thousand stories of joy and pain – that surpassed the others. And there was something about Ana Maria that simply captivated our hearts.
She was a sprite, barely 5 feet tall. Her delicately graying hair was pulled back into a ponytail that fell over her aging, faded sweatshirt- a sweatshirt that had lived lives before the life it lived with her. Her face was embossed with precious laugh lines. She helped the younger women in her baking group mix the ingredients for the pie crust, and carefully pinched the edges to make their work unique and special.
When the pastelitos were brought into the room, she smiled brightly. Though she only had three teeth visible, she was exquisite. Her hands were too small to pipe the frosting on her cake, but not too small to help direct where she wanted the ribbons of pink and purple sugar to go. She adorned her cake with colorful rainbows of butterflies and flowers, and held it up, beaming at the work of her hands. And then she did something no other woman did.
While the others in the kitchen relished the sweet treats they had made, she found her joy in offering bites to each of her new friends from the United States. Her act of kindness resonated through the kitchen, brightening the room. She held us, whispering prayers, reminding us of our own unique beauty and worth.
Ana Maria then took her kindness to others. After receiving her first-ever manicure, she shared again. Her beautifully painted hands reached and touched each member of our spa team as she again whispered prayers of blessing.
I pray to be like Ana Maria. I pray to have a face embossed with laughter. I pray to never be afraid to smile. I pray to never forget that the greatest joy comes from sharing. And I pray to always always always hunger to bless others through beautiful whispered prayers.