Lucia stared up at the dusty, orange walls in her tiny apartment in Cusco, Peru. Paint was peeling from small cracks near the baseboards, and as she looked up at the bare, white ceiling, Lucia shivered. She sighed. Another day was ending, and her boss at a local preschool had not paid her. It had been 31 days since she’d received a paycheck.
Lucia glanced around the one-room apartment. Her eyes landed near the two-burner stove, and she noticed that she and her two sons only had one small bag of rice and a few vegetables left. She would not be able to buy more food until her boss paid her.
Something has to change, Lucia thought. I love my job, but I’m afraid that my boys won’t be able to eat again this week. I can’t keep going like this.
The next day, Lucia woke up and went to work at the preschool. No one even mentioned a paycheck. Day 32, thought Lucia as she headed to a life-coaching meeting with volunteers from Something New. What am I going to do now?
Abbey, Jarah and Carla, volunteers with Something New, greeted Lucia with smiles as she walked into their office. “Lucia, today we want to talk with you about the things that are working and not working in your life right now,” Carla told her. “We believe you can have a life where you have everything you need, and where you and your boys can be happy, healthy, and safe. How can we help you?”
How did they know? Lucia thought to herself. She began to tell the volunteers about the things that were going well in her life. She was happy to spend time with her sons and she loved taking care of the kids at the preschool. “But I’m afraid for my sons,” she blurted out. “We don’t have enough food, and I can’t even buy diapers for the baby.”
“Thank you for sharing this, Lucia,” Jarah squeezed Lucia’s hand and continued. “I know you love your job, but the preschool isn’t paying enough to support you and the boys right now. It is your decision if you’d like to keep working there. But if you’d like to look for a new job, we can help you with that.”
Lucia took a deep breath. She loved the kids at the preschool. She loved tying their shoes and wiping their noses. She loved seeing her sons in their own classrooms across the hall from hers. She felt happy when she was with the kids. But something had to change in her life. Her sons deserved more.
“I want to quit my job,” she said firmly. “But I don’t know what to do next.”
A Step of Faith
Over the next few days, Lucia resigned from her job. She asked for transfer paperwork for her sons, and started to look for a new preschool and daycare for them. Something New volunteers encouraged her to look for a new apartment as well, so she began walking the streets of Cusco, hoping and praying for a new opportunity.
A few days later, Robert, another Something New volunteer, met Lucia on a sunny street corner near a cobblestone plaza in Cusco. “Let’s look for preschools for your older son today,” he told Lucia, and they started walking toward the local office of education.
When they arrived at the office, a secretary handed them a list of public preschools in the district. “You may find a spot for your son in one of these schools,” she told them, and pointed at the bottom of the list. “But don’t even think about asking at Public Preschool No. 88. They have a waiting list of over 1,200 students. It’s impossible to enroll your son there.”
Lucia left the office feeling discouraged. If it was impossible to enroll her son at one preschool, what were the chances that he could go to any of the others? When she quit her job, she had been holding on to hope that everything would work out. But the odds seemed against her. How was she going to be able to give her sons a better life?
You Are Who WE Are Looking For
Two days later, Robert woke up and felt inspired. “I could go to Public Preschool No. 88 and ask if they have a space available,” he told Jarah. “Why not? Even though they said it was impossible, we won’t know until we ask!”
“It’s worth a try!” Jarah told him. She wished him luck, and he started walking down a busy street in the direction of the school.
As Robert got closer to the preschool, he could see a long line of people waiting on the sidewalk. Oh no, he thought. They are probably all waiting to talk with the director.
But as he arrived at the huge front door of the preschool, he decided to walk by the line and go straight in to the main office. As it turned out, none of the people outside were waiting to talk with the director. It was a good thing, because she was very busy already. She walked by and saw him waiting there. “Not know,” she barked. “Wait outside.”
Robert waited until he was called back to the office. “How can I help you?” the director said sharply. “I’m very busy today. Make it fast.”
“I’m here to ask if you have a space for a new student,” Robert told her.
The director paused and looked up from her desk. “How old is the student?” she asked.
“He is five years old,” Robert said.
The director stared at him. “Just this morning, we had a student leave our school,” she said. “It was one of the boys in the five-year-old class. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do, because we need financial support at our school. But then you came, and you know of a student who could fill this spot. You are who we were looking for this morning.”
Robert was so happy to hear this. He could hardly contain his excitement as he filled out the initial paperwork with the director. He couldn’t wait to tell Lucia where her son would go to school.
As he stood up to leave the office, the director gave him some final information. “You have the spot for the new student,” she told him. “But you will have to pay his enrollment fee. You must come with the student’s mom by the end of this week, and you must bring $120 USD with you.”
A Miracle in a Mason Jar
On the other side of the Americas, another Something New volunteer was just waking up that morning. Shawnee had finished a closing shift the night before at her job at a local cafe. She stretched, and started to straighten up her room before heading to her class at a local college. The notification light on her phone caught her eye, so she decided to read her messages. She was just in time to see an update from Something New volunteers in Cusco. “Lucia’s son has a spot at the local Public Preschool No. 88!” she said out loud. “That is so exciting!”
Her eyes traveled over to a jar on the bookshelf as she read the rest of the message. She had been saving her tips in the jar since she visited Peru over a year ago, and had been waiting for the right moment to donate the money. “What are the odds,” she wondered to herself. “What if there is exactly $120 in the jar?”
She forgot all about her anatomy class as she pulled the jar off the shelf. She dumped it over on her bed, and pennies, nickels, and dimes came tumbling out. She started counting the money, and her excitement grew. “$125!” she exclaimed. “Now Roberto can go to school!”
Miracles Do Happen
That afternoon, Something New volunteers called a meeting with Lucia.
“On Monday, your son will start at his new preschool,” they smiled. “He has a spot in Public Preschool No. 88, where the secretary told us it was impossible to enroll him.”
“What!?! Wow!” Lucia’s eyes filled with tears.
The volunteers smiled back at her. “That’s not all,” they continued. “The director told us that you will need to pay $120 by the end of this week. Today we wrote our friends in the US, and we’ve already heard from someone. Shawnee had been saving money since she met you, and just happened to have $125 put aside to help you. She already sent us the money. Your son can start at his new school right away.”
As Lucia left the Something New office that day, she felt like she was flying. In just one week, she had found a new, clean apartment. She had a new job where a fixed salary was guaranteed. Her son had a spot in the best preschool in Cusco, and his enrollment fees had been paid for by Shawnee’s tip-jar donation. Lucia felt happy, grateful, touched, and relieved all at the same time. I didn’t know if I could believe it, she thought, as she smiled up at the clear blue sky. But miracles do happen.