As consumers of national and international news, we seem drawn to sensational horror stories of mass murder, suicide bombers, and security breeches. The rare bits of news we Americans receive regarding El Salvador generally relate to either a natural catastrophe or crime blamed on the gangs even though statistics prove this to be untrue.
Each night at 6:55 P.M., Lester Holt of NBC News closes his show by highlighting a heartwarming spot he calls the “Making a Difference Report.” In this signature sign-off segment Lester chooses to leave the viewer with a positive, uplifting feature to end his half-hour news broadcast.
Given all the struggles, hardships, and uncertainties the Salvadorans live with, my Lester Holt “ Making a Difference Report“ news spot for today is “Gracious Hospitality.”
Each and every Salvadoran we meet welcomes us warmly and graciously into his home introducing us to his family. Each offers us a drink, which may be as simple as coconut water, drunk with a straw directly out of the nut hacked with a machete in front of our eyes or juice from oranges picked directly overhead by a tree-climbing boy and freshly squeezed at the table. It may be a grand meal prepared by domestic help on short notice and served on a cotton embroidered tablecloth.
The level of trust Salvadorans show us by offering a key to the premises to come and go as we please, offering a phone to use for local use, offering to arrange a safe cab and then calling us to make certain we are indeed safe IN that cab go above and beyond simple courtesies.
The bishop accommodates his schedule to meet ours by coming in on a day he is ill because he knows how complicated re-arranging an appointment would be. Our flexible guesthouse owner allows us to choose meal times and menu as well as invite extra friends to join us whenever possible.
Many Salvadorans show deep gratitude and interest in our story project. They recommend other possible candidates to include and even offer to set up appointments with them and transport us to them.
Arranging a baby shower to coincide with our airport arrival so we could participate? DONE!
When we didn’t get all our questions to the supreme court justice answered in her limited time slot, she offered to host us for a meal at her home to continue.
A taxi driver offering to get out of his cab to help purchase the drugs at the pharmacy we needed was beyond our comprehension.
All the scores of storytellers who traveled by bus for many hours to reach us to share their reality and then thanked US for listening boggles the mind.
Those who dropped what they were doing to rescue us on the side of the mountain when the vehicle we were riding in broke down.
As hundreds of worshipers sat out in the middle of a field in the direct sun staring at us, the service did not begin until we arrived. Apparently, we were the guests of honor.
Being given original artwork by an accomplished artist after her interview came as a total surprise and gives a smile every day I look at it.
We have had the good fortune of being invited into homes of expats, joined Peace Corps members, individuals doing grad school work, joined other U.S. delegations from around the country, as well as international groups in their itineraries. All offer unique perspectives. All are welcoming.
We discovered hospitality can even come from a distance. We have skyped some of our interviews across the U.S. and even to the U.K. and Spain.
During a pandemic our scholarship students arranged a worship service of healing for Pastor Don’s delicate eye surgery 3200 miles away; sent prayers and notes, and played music over What’s Ap to brighten COVID-pneumonia lonely days.
These hospitable gestures are both casual and genuine. We sense they are more reflex than an effort. Gracious hospitality is alive and well in El Salvador. Gracias for each and every one of them!