Growing up - and still to this day - I’m struck by the work ethic of my dad and mom. Growing up, my brother and I were never in want. We ate well. We never had to sit out a season of hockey because of the cost, despite it being an expensive sport (especially considering how fast children grow). When the time came for me to go to high school, my parents enrolled me in the private school across town because, despite the tuition, my parents desired to plant me in an environment where I could grow. I know now that they were investing in future opportunities for my life in the hope that I might experience a world a little brighter and privileged than their own.
When you’re young, it’s easy to take blessings for granted. Inevitably, the things you are given tend to become expected and commonplace. A warm dinner is just that…a warm dinner. Going to school is routine and something that you just have to do…it’s expected.
As I get older, the things that seemed natural and expected in my youth take on a richer and richer meaning. My parents hid their constant sacrifice from my brother and me. I'm slowing learning that their sacrifices were marks of love, not requests for recognition. Realizing this has been a part of my own journey as I grow older and think about a family of my own one day.
I’m a snoop. Always have been. I used to get a kick out of reading my dad’s mail because it showed me more about the man I knew as “Pop.” Every summer, I went to a week-long hockey camp put on by a small group out of Canada called Hockey Ministries International. My dad started as a volunteer and eventually became the camp coordinator for the Chicago chapter. I happened upon a letter addressed to him one day in which the mother of a camper thanked him for underwriting a scholarship so that her son could attend camp. Later I learned that he had been doing this for years, sacrificing and investing in opportunity for kids who would never know what he had done.
I have learned from my dad that sacrificing for your children is a conscious choice built upon a natural and unshakable bond of family. But to go above and beyond and sacrifice for someone outside of your bloodline, investing in opportunity for neighbors, friends and strangers, is perhaps the truest mark of love.
This sacrifice reminds me a lot of what I see in our clients. One of my favorite stories of sacrifice comes from Opportunity Nicaragua, where a group of our female clients, after being empowered to better care and sacrifice for their own children, joined together to sacrifice for the forgotten children in their community. Sex trafficking is a major problem in their community, and they lobbied a nonprofit called ACONIFA which is dedicated to ending child sex trafficking and child labor in Nicaragua, to train them to effectively begin tackling this problem.
Because of their commitment to forgotten children, 17 local leaders have been trained by ACONIFA, and these community advocates have emerged as human rights trailblazers in their community. They now identify and prevent abusive situations and have since joined forces with the police and the prosecutor’s office to establish a close working relationship and assure abuse cases are brought forward and prosecuted. Already, more than 10 cases are under investigation or prosecution.
This week, I’m thankful for the radical type of love that extends beyond our families to impact and uplift those who may never know our names or how much we really gave. This is why I will always believe in investing in opportunity for all.