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Have you ever had an immediate connection with someone? You know, the kind where a complete stranger crosses your path and you instinctively KNOW them, you energetically connect with them. And from that point on, regardless of distance or lapsed time or language barriers, you carry a piece of them with you.
Rona and her family were like that for me. On my first trip to the Philippines our hearts connected. We smiled, we laughed, we sang karaoke together. By the time I flew back to America, I knew I would always care for their entire family.
After 15 years of working in our co-op as a jewelry designer, Rona had a falling out with the director. I was not made aware of this. I flew to the Philippines for a scheduled trip, (prior to Covid) and was excited to catch up with all the workers and their families.
As I was talking to the director, hearing all the news, stories, family updates I became aware that nothing was being said about Rona and her family.
So I asked, “What about Rona, how is she? Her husband and kids?”
I saw the look, you know the look I’m talking about. The one where you ask someone a question, they aren’t sure how to answer it because there’s a story ‘behind the answer’ and so they ‘look’ over at the other person (who’s aware of the ‘behind the answer’ story as well) and then they quickly glance back at you and are HESITANT in their response.
So I knew. I knew right away that something was amiss.
So I pushed. Because that’s what I do when I know a hard conversation is about to (or needs to) take place.
I asked again, this time saying “Lets not avoid this, what’s going on with Rona and their family?”
The director briefly hesitated again, then quickly informed me of a situation that had occurred a year earlier, and that Rona was no longer working.
Was I surprised? Yes. Was it fixable? I sure hoped so.
I quickly said, “Lets go see her.”
“No, said the director, “we don’t think it’s a good idea, she hasn’t talked to us for over a year, we think it’s best if we don’t let her know you’re here”.
“Nope”, I quickly replied.
“Let’s go see them now. We will surprise their family. We love them, if it’s gone on for over a year then that is a year too long, let’s go mend this”.
We drove to the squatters area in silence. I could tell thoughts were spinning and alarm bells were going off for the director and her spouse.
As we arrived she turned to me and said “We will drop you here and wait back here, perhaps it’s better if she doesn’t see us, I don’t think she wants to see us”.
I told them that was great, and then said they should stand where they could see what happens, because if I was received with warmth/acceptance, then that would be a good indicator that maybe the situation was clear and it was time for things to be mended. They agreed.
I walked toward Rona’s house. I was met by her daughters who squealed in delight. They told me their mom was around the corner at another persons dwelling, so we walked in that direction.
As we rounded the corner, I saw that Rona was walking toward us. I called out and began to run towards her. She quickly looked up, let out a wail and dropped into my arms, sobbing.
I hugged her tightly, speaking reassuring words of “It’s all ok, what happened in the past no longer matters, everything is ok”.
She cried harder and mixed her Tagalog with some English, trying to explain the past year.
In that moment, the director came around the corner as well, she too was crying as she cautiously walked towards us. Rona looked up and saw her and sobbed louder than before.
I gave her one last tight hug and said “lets all talk, we need to start again” and she and the director hugged, sobbing and grasped each other’s hands as we all walked towards Rona's house together.
She and Rona sat and talked while I sang songs on Karaoke with the other family members. After a short while the director said, “Its alright now, Wendy, we are all good again, she says she is sorry and she would like to work again”.
I smiled, hugged them both tightly and rejoiced internally that the estrangement had ended.
We finished the evening singing Zombie (Cranberries) as we laughed and smiled and sang our hearts out!
When we truly connect with someone, that energy, that connection carries forward through all the rough patches. The saying “Time heals all wounds” is accurate. With enough passage of time, wounds mend.
Once we have a connection with someone it becomes nearly impossible to sever. We all have a human drive for connection with others.
But mostly love.
We simply want to be loved for who we are in all our human frailty.
On this day in the squatters of the Philippines, it didn’t matter what had happened in the past. It didn’t matter what had happened prior to my arrival.
That was the trivial part.
The essential part was the connection. The immediate recognition that love, acceptance, forgiveness and belonging were of higher importance than whatever had transpired the year prior.
The ‘letting go’.
Human relationships are not disposable. They need to be nurtured and tenderly cared for over the course of time in order for the connection to remain strong and sure.