Well folks the time has arrive to meet Joanna and her parents. I have to admit to being very nervous. What if she doesn’t like me? What if I don’t know what to say? What if her parents think the charity is demeaning? I just don’t know what to expect.
Well as I ride the escalator up, at the top is a small Philippino lady waiting for me in a yellow shirt, she introduces herself as my contact Danica. And then she says, and this is your sponsored child Joanna, and points right behind me. I simply am overwhelmed with joy at this point and cannot resist giving her a big hug. And her bright and gorgeous smile is so welcoming. A complete stranger and she’s absolutely welcoming and happy to see me. Then I am introduced to the rest of the family Mom, is in tears, Dad is pretty stoic, little sister is grinning and older brother seems a bit like a sullen teenager LOL but is a sweet kid.
They all greet me with a handshake and bowing and touching my hand to their forehead. I did not know the meaning of this at the time but it was obvious a sign of great respect. I learn later the following:
Mano or pagmamano is an “honoring-gesture” used in Filipino culture performed as a sign of respect to elders and as a way of requesting a blessing from the elder. Similar tohand-kissing, the person giving the greeting bows towards the hand of the elder and presses his or her forehead on the elder’s hand.wikipedia
So I know that Joanna speaks english well as she writes me very eloquent letters for a 13 year old speaking a foreign language. But she is still a bit shy and using Danica to interpret for us, which is just fine by me.
Well I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment and it is suggested that we move downstairs to have lunch. I’ll be damned if I know what the name of the place was. But we enter as a group of 9 as there is also the social worker that works with the family, the secretary of Unbound for the region and the groups driver.
Before we sit down I cannot resist offering my gift to Joanna. But before I get a chance she says she has a gift for me. It is a little box tied with a little green ribbon. It looks wrapped so beautifully I felt ashamed I just brought my gift in the bag since I was traveling so far and didn’t think it would survive. Anyway, as I untie the bow there is a beautiful 4 fold out box with hand made messages on each foldout including pictures that I had sent her of me, and the family.
It is so perfect and will hang on my Christmas tree this year.
Then I have her open my gift of a yellow Michigan shirt and she has a huge smile… so huge that what I do next I didn’t even expect but I popped my hat on her head and offered it up as well. Yes THE M-hat. It has been passed to a beautiful young girl whom I hope will take it on many an adventure in her time.
After this we all sit down, say grace and share a wonderful meal of fried chicken, Joanna’s favorite, noodles and beef, mixed vegetables and rice. Over lunch I have the chance to talk with the family and Mom gets emotional more than once, she is truly a beautiful woman .. full of life and humor! Dad, is proud and strong and the staff from Unbound amazingly helpful and friendly.
When the meal is finished we head up to the fourth floor of the mall, which I learn Joanna and the family have never seen anything of the like before. Up on the fourth floor is an arcade where we can play games together. So I get schooled in Pop-a-shot by Joanna’s brother, we do a cute photo booth session, play some skee-ball in a couple of different varieties all the while collecting the ubiquitous “tickets” that her brother is coveting. He hits it big in one of them and gets something like 500 tickets in one fell swoop. It was a riot watching them select their prizes at the end of the time.
Finally the time comes to part ways and I cannot help but tear up. Joanna has shared with me her dreams of becoming a teacher and a math teacher at that! She wants nothing for Christmas other than to be with her family and everyone to be happy. She loves playing volleyball. So many wonderful things about this young woman that I cannot help but want to continue to support and help grow into all that she can be and more than she can even dream of today.
Once we part .. well the ATM saga continues.. more on this in the next entry. For now I just want to sit and remember and smile.
GO BLUE.. Beat OSU!!