Can one be powerful in spite of being meek?
In my lifetime I had a very simply but happy childhood, you could say it was a “normal” childhood (although I have never been in agreement with things being “normal”). My family was a close-knit unit, I went to a public primary school and a middle-class high school that my parents paid for through some sacrifice. On the weekends we traveled to Purulhá, the beautiful landscape where my father was born in Baja Verapaz.
I was an average student, neither lazy nor outstanding, and made good friends along the way. I’ve always been needy and also whiny; it always embarrassed me to take any energetic action whatsoever. My childhood was spent mostly running through the woods, playing with the children of the land owner, especially with my godmother, “Lola”.
I was fortunate to have the most intelligent and humane people I’ve ever met be my parents: Bernardo Lemus Mendoza and Telma Isabel Gordillo de Lemus. They taught me, among other things, principles and social values. My father was murdered during the armed conflict, around the time I was turning fourteen, and my mother died in a tragic accident just a few years later.
After getting married, divorced, and raising my children a little of what I had learned, I had to return to my native land, which I now consider my own, where there is a municipal library that had opened in my father’s memory, bearing his name.
One day I decided to take a stroll through this new place, where there were hundreds of children with rubber boots, who really reminded me of my own childhood classmates (as well as my father’s own childhood). Children with limited resources and poverty came up to me seeking information so they could do their homework.
It was there where I found the special kind of courage to make a difference in their lives: I began helping them to find the information and to get text books, and I taught them to use the dictionary. All the while the children took out rancid pieces of paper from their pockets to take notes, intent on achieving different opportunities in their lives.
I began, with the help of my siblings, to look for educational tools they might need, like notebooks, crayons, and large sheet paper; all this with the desire to facilitate for them a better and different childhood than the one that society had condemned them to. We focused on their holistic education as a foundational tool.
We realized that it is impossible to talk only of education when they were barefoot with empty stomachs. For this reason, our work has centered on diverse activities; always seeking to help support independent human beings with values, principles, adequate health; with a focus on the community spirit and with emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and the desire to achieve the opportunities that they work for without assuming that everything will be resolved.
This social change doesn’t need to come from a special person, it just needs to be rooted in social commitment that comes from the heart.