Sunday, March 6, 2011

Slow and Steady

Huang Nan (with two of her three children)
 in foreground, Ma Lay and Ko Meh in back.
Our last Hilltriber artisan meeting time was during a school vacation day. We never know what to expect when kids are out of school. We could either have 20 in attendance or 2. On this particular day, six women showed up, but three of the six (half the class!) were first-timers. So the plans for the day were set aside and we (once again) went over the basics of HCHT--what we're all about.

I went on for about 20 minutes about how this is really about friendship and community. And how hopefully the side effect was a little bit of extra income from the products we are able to sell. I explained how the organization pays for supplies through donations and by holding back 10% of sales. Each artisan receives the remaining 90% of the purchase price. And I explained for the ten zillionth time that we have no control over what will sell and what won't. It is truly up to the market. At the end of the discussion, the new artisans seemed so excited to start.

And that's when my heart drooped a little bit. Here they were (one woman had been in the country for 5 days), brand new and eager. And here I was, excited about the prospects of this coming year, but feeling in a state of constant catch-up. So I just put it out there.

"So, all of us that work with this organization, we're all parents of small children. We're slow. Sometimes so slow you'll be frustrated. Things on our end will take longer than we would like. And I want to say sorry ahead of time. And I want to say we love you, and we will be trying our hardest to help you earn some extra income, but our families come first."

I felt odd laying it out like this, but as the translation came through, I saw the largest smile spread widely across the face of Huang Nan, an emerging leader in the group. She locked eyes with me and said simply, "Us too."

What a gift she gave me! She snapped me out of my self-centeredness and reminded me that we're all in this together. We're all mothers struggling to find time to balance our many roles. They just happen to do it all without a complete understanding of the English language, personal transportation or internet access. Can you imagine what your week would look like if you were responsible for 21 meals for a family of 5 (on a budget!) and could only get to the grocery store by bus? Or how you would handle medical bills, insurance claims and government forms written in a foreign language?

Just another reason I'm so thankful to know the beautiful women of Hill Country Hill Tribers and feel blessed to be able to share their hard work with all of you. However slow I may be at doing it.