Along the narrow alley that leads to Carmen’s house, the mechanical rattling of a sewing machine faintly echoes like the sound of continuous rain dripping onto an empty can. At the first turn toward left, an old and creaking wooden board leans on the edge of the concrete alley. This saves your feet from the shallow waterway that has become a mixture of mud and trash. Suddenly, a dog begins to bark furiously and you back away a little, ready to run if the dog shows up. You do not notice that the rattling from the sewing machine has already stopped.
Carmen appears with a smile and a tinged of embarrassment on her face. "Come. Our neighbor’s dog is chained. Don’t be afraid. And I apologize for all this dirt," she says. Behind the door of her house, a small boy shyly looks on with half of his body hidden. "That is my son. His name is Lawrence," she continues. With her hand, she signals Lawrence to come out. The boy hesitantly walks forward then he sits on a bamboo chair that is filled with newly stitched hand bags. "Don’t sit on those bags! They’re all of my day’s labor!" Carmen shouts.
Two years ago, Carmen lost his husband to a heart failure. Since then, she has been the only one who provides and cares for her two children—seven-year-old Lawrence and twelve-year-old Joan. "It’s impossible to raise two children by yourself if you are only earning one hundred pesos a day. I always thought we would never ever get through," she says as her face turns stiff. It’s as if a very familiar instinct has instantly overwhelmed her, disabling her of showing an emotion of distress.
With poverty and other heartbreaking misfortunes, one can really do nothing but learn how to become numb from sorrow. For Carmen, the death of her husband may have made them poorer, but it has also taught them how to be strong and how to let go of the past. "Nothing good will really happen to us if I keep on carrying the anguish that I have felt from all of our misfortunes," she shares. Then abruptly, as if to stop remembering the past anymore, Carmen happily exclaims, "Good thing that my two children became sponsored! And there’s more to that."
A few months ago, Carmen’s sewing machine broke down. Though she wanted badly to fix it, she couldn’t afford to. "Sewing hand bags is my only source of income. And with my sewing machine broken, it means that there would be no food on our table," she says. So when Children International learned about her situation, the agency decided to help. Through special donation, arrangements were made to repair her sewing machine. "I am very thankful to the agency for putting me back to my feet. Now, I can provide food for my children again. And from time to time, I can also give them their school allowance," Carmen gladly says.
She sheds no tears now, even if she feels overwhelmingly happy for what the agency has done to help her and her two children. Crying and expressing an emotion of grief are perhaps not really signs of weakness or resignation. But for Carmen who has gone through a lot of life’s most unpleasant challenges, crying has already ceased being an emotional cure. As she easily works on stitching the hand bags, it’s not so hard to imagine how she manages to patch and cover the rip on her family’s past.
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