We saw true charity in action a few nights ago—the put-others’-needs-ahead-of-my-own kind of charity—at a high school graduation. The graduates were middle-aged parents, young single mothers, and undereducated breadwinners—the kind of people who really needed the education to get along in life. And the teachers and staff who gave it to them were all volunteers donating their own time and resources.
This was the first graduation for the Institute of Eternal Spring. The name is a play on the nickname of Guatemala City—“Land of Eternal Spring”—where the institute is located. But since spring is a time of new beginnings, the name is fitting.
The program was started a couple of years ago by a young woman who had reached a plateau in her personal life and found that her life was not yet going in the direction she had hoped. She had reached long-ago-made goals to prepare for marriage, had completed her university education with a teaching degree, felt ready in every respect to have a family of her own—but marriage had not come. She wondered why she did not receive the blessing for which she felt prepared; indeed, she was probably feeling a bit sorry for herself.
And then a couple of things happened that had great impact on her life. First, she heard a talk in LDS general conference from a leader who she felt offered prophetic counsel: when life does not go as you have planned, look outside yourself for ways to serve others. Second, she learned of two women in her LDS congregation who were in danger of losing their jobs because they had never completed their formal education. So this young woman developed a plan to help them get the schooling they needed.
As she put the plan into action, it quickly developed into something more than she had foreseen. Her two students that first year turned into twenty. When she needed help with the teaching, she was able to recruit qualified people willing to donate their time as teachers, and often pay for supplies out of their own pockets. Working in her country’s Ministry of Education offices, she was able to develop a program that met the requirements for a primary school education, and then for the equivalent of a high school diploma. People who completed the program would have their educational accomplishments officially recognized by the government, and the only cost to them—beyond personal transportation and school supplies—would be a fee of about $7.00 to cover Ministry of Education processing costs.
At the graduation a few nights ago, local Church leaders and a representative of the city praised the program’s founder and the dozen or so volunteer teachers and administrators who keep the institute running. They called on the graduates to keep moving forward with their education.
But I think the most rewarding thing about the graduation for the young woman who started it all and for those who have helped her, was the gratitude expressed by the graduates for the love and dedication of their teachers in helping others.
And really, what could be more rewarding than knowing that you have helped remove obstacles on the road of life for some of your fellow travelers?