If the life of a father had a soundtrack, “Somebody’s Watching Me” would be on it. The life of a father is an observed life. Little eyes watch and remember the things you do—big or small. You get a laugh at the cute ways your everyday habits are mimicked. Or you chuckle at a repeated phrase that you didn’t even know you said so much until a small voice says it back to you.
There’s no doubt about it, Compassion kids have some great dads! Around the world, there are fathers who work hard, care deeply, step up in crisis and love their kids. The multifaceted reality of poverty can create a smokescreen that hides the great lengths that these dads go to in order to provide for their families, but their love is not hidden from the little ones in their homes. As we celebrate the fathers and father figures around us this weekend, we’d love to travel with you to Latin America to hear the stories of fathers persevering through poverty.
These stories will inspire you. But we hope that they will also serve as a reminder that every act of love is observed. Children see. Children learn. And children become. Dads, your labour of love is an investment into the future. And from what we can see, the future is bright.
The sound of a motorbike used to be a happy sound to my ears. It meant you were either coming home to see me and Clarita or that you were leaving for work. During the pandemic, there were no motorbike sounds because there was no work for you. I remember how we prayed together for you to get a new job when you tucked us into bed at night and I noticed you praying in the mornings too. And finally, it happened! You got the news that you had a job you’d be able to stay at for a long time. Soon our mornings and evenings had the happy sound of your motorbike rumbling to and from our home again.
I watched you pack up your things, humming while you filled your bag that morning. You told me and Clarita that we’d talk about what we did at the Compassion centre that day when you got home. We both stood on the front stoop and waved as you puttered off on your motorbike. But that night, you didn’t come home.
I remember learning that you had been in a serious accident, that a truck had hit you on your way to work and that you were in the hospital. I was scared. Clarita cried and that made me cry too. I heard the adults say that it was a miracle you survived the accident. They said that you needed eight surgeries and that it would be more than a year before you could work again. They told us we needed to move in with Abuela while you recovered.
When you came home to us, I told myself that I needed to be brave like you. I knew that to be brave meant I had to pray. You are brave and I think it is because you pray a lot. So I prayed, “God, help my Papá get better. Help him to be happy again.”
I watched as you struggled with frustration and sadness after your accident, but you never gave up. The Compassion tutors started dropping by regularly with food packages and Bible lessons. It was always a time when you smiled the most—listening to the Bible stories about trusting God even when things are difficult and then unpacking the goodies in our food package.
The sound of a motorbike is no longer a happy sound. But your voice will always be a happy sound to me. Listening to you pray in the morning, reading to us at bedtime and reminding us that the most important thing in life is to know God are the sounds that have shaped my life. As you get better and you are beginning to walk again, I see that hope is what has made you stronger.
I want to tell you that I saw the look on your face that day when you turned the tap and only a few drops of water sputtered out. The tap sounded like it was being choked as it rattled, groaned and eventually fell quiet. I saw you look up at Mami and say you hoped it was temporary and we’d have our water back by the time you got home from work.
I heard the sigh as Mami told you we still didn’t have water when you got home that day. I watched you search for our buckets—the yellow one with the red letters and the clear blue jug—as the last of the daylight faded. You put your hand on my head and told me to help Mami put the younger kids to bed while you walked for water. I stood outside our door looking after you until you turned around the bend at the end of the street. I never saw you come home because Mami got us all in bed before you got back.
The water never came back in our tap and suddenly that was our routine. You came home from work, grabbed our buckets, ruffled my hair and walked down the street to the bend until I couldn’t see you anymore. Sometimes you’d ask us bigger kids to come help carry a few extra jugs of water for laundry or baths. Not only did I hate baths, but now I had to go on the long walk to get my bathwater! But I liked spending time with you, so it wasn’t all bad.
That was our routine for three years… Until my Compassion centre announced that they would be helping our community by installing a borehole! I saw your eyes light up when Compassion director Marleny shared that we’d have access to water again. Immediately I thought that maybe this would mean we could all have dinner together again when you got home from work. Or maybe you’d be able to tuck me into bed and I could tell you about the activities I did at the Compassion centre that day.
Papá, when you carried water every night, I know you were carrying our family. And now when we do the short walk together to the Compassion borehole, I smile because just like the water fills our buckets, my heart is full too.
Juan Carlos—Lisbeth’s Dad
I’ve always seen you as colourful. Some days you are a bright blue sky, other days you are a comforting purple blanket and on days when we have fun together, you are the sweet orange of a juicy bite of mango. Colour is a part of our family’s story because you made it so.
But then, when COVID-19 hit, you were the grey of a day spent inside during a storm. Where you used to travel across the country doing deliveries for work, suddenly you were at home with no job because the borders had closed. As the weeks passed, I could see that you were anxious. You told Mami that what little we had saved was running out and then you got the news that your boss had died. Our colourful life suddenly felt like we were living in a black and white film.
The Compassion tutors would visit us once a month, bringing food packages and other important items. During their visits, I stood beside you as they prayed with our family. Squeezing my eyes shut, I prayed that the colour would come back, even as I listened to you pray that God would lead and guide you in how to provide for our family.
Then, during one of the Compassion visits, they told us that we would be receiving $300 to create a micro-business. This meant that you could create your own work even during the pandemic! I was excited when you started attending the Compassion centre for your own lessons in business administration.
I wasn’t surprised at all when it came time to build your business, you started selling colour! Your idea was to bring colour into people’s homes by making woven chairs. Yellow, teal, pink, orange, green—you wove every hue into stools and seats and lawn chairs to brighten up homes. And in doing that, the colour came pouring back into our home again.
Now you make a steadier income than you did before the pandemic and you and Mami joyfully pray thanks to God every evening. I learned at the Compassion centre that after the flood, God gave Noah a rainbow as a promise. I think God knows that colour is the language of hope and help. That is why you have named your business Emanuel Chairs—because God has always been with us.