61-Year-Old Widow Has a Unique Take on the Meaning of Privilege

Like many women in rural Honduras, Maria lived with the daily effects of grinding poverty. Her husband died, leaving her a widow.

And of the 17 children she bore, only nine survived to adulthood. Maria’s eyes darkened with pain as she talked about carrying eight children to the cemetery one-by-one over 16 weeks.

Maria’s children died in a whooping cough epidemic.

Now, her grandchildren lived with constant illnesses, often unable to go to school or even play pick-up soccer games outside their house.The children’s health problems sprang from contaminated water.

In Maria’s hometown, though, something life-changing had happened. Our IMPACT Water team constructed a gravity-fed system that piped fresh, clean water to each home.

And now, Maria had heard, the North Americans were coming to her grandchildren’s village, too. Her son’s family would have the same fresh water she had flowing out of a tap right at her house!

My grandchildren can go to school every day now, and they won’t keep getting sick, she thought.

But then her son sent a message. To get the water, each family had to do their part of the labor. He had a temp job laying electric wire. It was a nine-hour walk from his house to the new job. His family needed the money his job would provide. They’d have to forego getting the water.

Maria couldn’t stand by and watch her grandchildren drink dirty water because her son was working in another town. She decided right then that she would take his place among the construction workers.

For four days, I watched Maria tote one 90-lb bag of cement after another straight up 1100 feet of a mountain road. Finally, I got the nerve to ask why we had one elderly Honduran woman helping 24 strapping Honduran men with this grueling project.

When I heard Maria’s story, I was dumbstruck.

“Maria,” the village leaders told her, “you don’t have to do this.”

It is my privilege, she said.

This woman knew what fresh water meant for her son and his family. It meant well-laundered clothes and hours freed to invest in other work. It meant clean hands and faces that helped prevent eye disease and other disabling conditions. Most of all, it meant that Maria’s son might not have to make all those trips to the cemetery that she had made years before.

Meeting Maria changed how I look at my work, my family, and my time. Actually, meeting Maria changed how I look at God. When I say it’s a privilege to serve Him and His people through IMPACT Water, I remember what Maria considered a privilege.

People like you made fresh water possible for Maria’s family. In fact, people like you probably helped save the lives of her grandchildren. That’s a privilege.

Family Activity: At dinner, pour your family glasses of obviously dirty water (don’t let them drink it!). Talk about how over 750,000 Hondurans are exposed to contaminated water every day and what that means about health, education, work, and poverty. Discuss how your family can change things for a village.

Devotion: Read John 4 together. Assign a family member to learn more about what life is like without access to clean water and report back what they learned at the next meal.

Ways Your Family Can Help: Ask your young children to consider giving $1.25 (the average price of a can of Coca-Cola) of their own money to help IMPACT Water lay 8.3 feet of pipe in Honduras. Ask older children to look up the current price of one share of Coca-Cola, and give that amount to help IMPACT Water this Christmas.