I recently asked you HERE to look at this picture ... really look ... and tell me what you saw. Thanks to all of you who responded. If you haven't already done it, take a minute to look now ... please ... then I'll tell you about these girls.
When I wrote HERE about my "new" husband, I told you that Renaissance Man is president of the international non-profit ministry Hope Unlimited for Children, offering hope and transformation to children at mortal risk in Brazil. Although he is responsible for the U.S. side of the organization (budgeting, fundraising, speaking to churches/civic groups, etc.) he also makes multiple trips to Brazil each year; sometimes I go with him.
Before he left on a recent trip, I asked him to take tablescape pictures for me. Today I'm sharing them with you. This table is not "my" style. It's not laden with beautiful dishes and linens -- or coordinated, casual, fun ones, for that matter. But this table represents THE VERY BEST TABLESCAPE I've ever seen. Stay with me! You just might find that you agree...
Much has been said and written about the art of the tablescape. Varying heights, coordinating colors, enhanced textures ... You know. The kind of tables I like to share with you each week. But while they may be well done -- or sometimes even beautiful -- they're superficial, and I know it. The most satisfying tablescapes are the ones that focus not on the art, but on the heart.
A tablescape with heart may or may not incorporate matching dishes and linens, but it always - always - offers a welcome embrace, sincere acceptance, and the warmth of family ... whether or not those seated shoulder-to-shoulder are actually related. (I wonder who rearranged the silverware after the first pic was taken ... She has an obvious artistic flair!)
This table has heart -- a really big heart -- and it must ... because those who sit around it desperately need all of the acceptance and embrace, the love and security, the stability and hope that it offers.
They're just children -- on average 10-16 years of age -- but their young lives have known a lifetime ... or several lifetimes ... of pain.
They're little girls ... who have faced abandonment by family and society, unspeakable abuses, and unimaginable exploitation, often including forced prostitution. (Yes, even the youngest ones.)
There are FIVE tables like this at the girls' campus of Hope Unlimited for Children -- each one embracing up to 16 girls. There are similar tables at the two boys' campuses ... and in the day student cafeterias ... and in the preschool. By the time all of the place settings are counted, over 1200 children are served a life-transforming portion of hope every day.
It's hard to imagine that in one of the wealthiest countries in our world, millions of children live on the streets. Millions who are just like these beautiful girls. Millions who will die before they ever experience hope ...
For the past 20 years, the presence of Hope Unlimited for Children in Brazil has offered hope and a future to hundreds of children. I wish I could tell you that every child has been a success story, but I can't. Life doesn't work that way. But I can tell you that two years after they graduate from our program, 75% of our kids are meaningfully employed and in a stable living situation. Yes, I realize that's an amazing and virtually unheard of statistic, but it's documented ... and we're very proud of it. We achieve such statistics because we don't "drop" our kids when they turn 18. We continue our family relationship with them, moving them into their first apartments, encouraging them in their first jobs, loving them through the sometimes poor choices of young adulthood ... just like you and I do with our own children.
But even incredible statistics aren't enough for us to claim success. What more could we possibly want? Well, I'll tell you ... ONLY when the cycle of abuse and abandonment is broken for a child do we consider it a "success" ... and we have many success stories! We are now "grandparents" as many of our graduates have started families of their own, giving to the next generation the love, stability, and protection that their families and society never gave them. THAT is the transformation for which we prayed. THAT is when we know we've been successful ... when the cycle is broken.
Renaissance Man has just started writing a blog. It's called the least of these. A story he posted last week is a difficult one to read, but it shows a beautiful transformation in a young girl's life. It shows the result of the hope that was offered to her every day ... around the table. The table with heart ... I hope you'll read it HERE.
If you want to know more about Hope Unlimited for Children, I encourage you to visit the website by clicking either the logo above -- or the logo that's always on my sidebar. Now you know why this is my favorite charity. Because I have a "behind the scenes" view. I know how decisions are made ... how money is spent ... how hope is offered ... how lives are transformed.
If you would like to join me on behalf of the children (or if you still have questions after looking at the site), never hesitate to contact me ... any time.
I'm linking to these great blog parties:
* Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday *
* At The Picket Fence for Inspiration Friday *