The day was gray and biting cold, below freezing. Howard and I drove to DC, parked at a metro stop, taking the train to Metro Center, DC. Sitting in the barely warm, vacant metro car, I pulled out my invitation from Women for Women, to attend a gathering of country directors, board members, supporters and friends, facilitating an opportunity to mingle and share stories. Four years I have had the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful organization. This event was my first time to actually meet those who make it all happen, the directors, the sponsors and the women who serve as country directors.
It seemed so appropriate to hold this event at the Museum for Women in the Arts. A museum dedicated to women artists through out the centuries.
Hanging from the balcony was a banner honoring women from around the world who rise from the ashes of war fortified with courage to start life anew. These are the courageous women. These are my heroines.
The woman depicted on this banner is working with her strong hands making the stubborn red clay more malleable so that she can create pots to sell, providing the only source of income to sustain her family.
Notice the strength of her hands. It is interesting to reflect upon our hands. Our hands birth babies. Our hands bathe children. Our hands prepare food. Our hands provide shelter and comfort. Our hands tell stories to our children. Some women use their hands working in gardens and growing their family’s food. Some hands create pots, baskets, jewelry, blankets and other items for income or personal pleasure. Some hands work at other types of jobs. Our hands offer hugs and encouragement. Our hands prepare loved ones in death. The story of our lives is etched into the furrows of our hands. Hands are co-partners with our hearts.
Despite the cold, hundreds of women and a handful of men arrived full of enthusiasm and renewed commitment. Others came to learn more about the organization and perhaps join.
Two tables were laden with delicious finger food, served with linen napkins. The hummus was creamy and fragrant, very yummy. The asparagus spears were perfectly tender and crisp. Cheeses and breads, a date loaf dense and sugary teased our appetite.
The museum walls enveloped us with magnificent paintings. This painting is particularly appropriate with its table laden with fruits and vegetables. Standing erect a younger woman helps to lift the burden of another. This is the essence of Women for Women, lifting the burden of another.
Stronger women, Stronger nations. The dichotomy of crystal chandeliers, elegant walls lined with priceless art, linen napkins, marble floors and the feet of women who despite their personal stories of tragedy, now live lives of quiet dignity and service to their fellow sisters.
Niger, Bosnia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Republic of Congo, Kosovo, Sudan--are countries that hold tight to their breast, unbelievable stories; stories of women and children overcoming the odds of death, rape, hunger, torture and loss of loved ones. On this beautiful evening, we paid tribute to these women who now serve as their country's director. As they once were helped by Women for Women, they now help their fellow sisters.
Each director spoke to her country's needs. Expressed gratitude and humility for all that is being done for them. Their stories inspire us to do even more for others. It is so easy for us. These women are in the United States for two weeks, touring and meeting people from government officials to ordinary women living extraordinary lives. I wonder what impressions they will take back to their own countries.
Each month over 10,000 letters are exchanged between sponsors and women. It is the beauty of the program, the personal touch, the reaching out. I like to think of each letter having wings attached to its words and flying into an other's heart.