A new friend request came via Facebook. At first, I did not recognize the name, so I ignored the request. Some weeks later, when I was looking through a trip journal and some photos, I had an "ah-ha" moment and put name to face and thought how kind it was of this new friend to remember me. I hit "accept" and had a new Facebook friend in El Salvador -- one of my first.
My friend is very thoughtful. I receive lots of little email encouragements from her and, not just the standard ones which get forwarded on between large lists of e-friends, but personally crafted messages filled with references to the few times we have been together. We share little bits of news with each other about family and friends. When her sister had a baby, I sent a soft yellow blanket.
During this year's holistic healing event, my friend came for a medical check-up, and she brought her mom and brother for check-ups too. Her mom needed a special medicine which we did not have but which were able to purchase for her at a nearby pharmacy. For the next few days, every time my friend's path crossed mine (which happened now and then because she works in the Salvadoran Lutheran Church offices), she made a special effort to thank me and the team because the medicine was working and everyone in her family was doing well...
El Dia de Amor y Amistad - Valentine's Day - fell at the end of the healing event this year. Early in the morning my friend found me and gave me a gold office envelope with my name written on it. She giggled and apologized for the wrapping job. Inside was a cute wooden turtle for my desk at home.
The night before, the church office staff and Lutheran guest house staff and family members and the few of us who were still there as guests all put our names into a hat to draw for amigos secretos - secret friends. There was a little bit of name-trading so that we North Americans did not end up with one another, and in the end, of course, I had the name of my special friend. I put a few surprises into a pretty pink and red bag.
We sat down to a mid-afternoon treat at a big long table on the porch of the guest house. We had coffee and delicious pasteles (little deep-friend meat pies) with curtido. Under the table and behind backs were hidden bags and packages with little presents for our amigos secretos. The person who chose my name gave me an adorable homemade blouse and some seed earrings. She was so happy that I liked the shirt! Then it was my turn to share a gift with my secret friend - who was so surprised and thrilled to know that I had chosen her name and that we were not only amigas, but amigas secretas.
When we had been out in our sister church community in past years, we celebrated Valentine's Day with secret friends and a party. I had no idea that this was a tradition which is celebrated throughout El Salvador. Anyone who is present in the community, whether the community is made up of family, friends, office workers or a congregation, during the week of Valentine's Day is welcome to share in the fun. It's a great way for kids and adults, old friends and new friends to have simple fun together, not only to be linked together on one day, but perhaps for years -- because amigos secretos share much more than friendship, they share love.