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My Sons - Fortaleza - Ceara - Brazil - 1992My Sons – Fortaleza – Ceará – Brazil – 1992

When my two sons were kids, my best Mother’s Day gifts were the cards they made for me. I treasure these cards to this day. Now that they are young men, my best Mother’s Day gift is celebrating their achievements, large and small, as they work towards their individual goals in life.

Many are the challenges we mothers face as we raise and prepare our children to take their place in the world: to be kind, to make a difference, to triumph over loss and misfortune.

This Mother’s Day, I think of mothers who struggle to raise their children under adverse conditions. Mothers who labor at low-wage jobs in fast-food restaurants, retail stores, and hotels. Mothers who have lost their homes to foreclosure and raise their kids in cars and shelters. Mothers who have lost their jobs and must depend upon charitable and government assistance to feed their children.

When we are strong, our children learn to be strong too. There are countless, unknown, courageous mothers across America and our planet who can attest to this. Dona Lindu (photo below) from Pernambuco in Northeast Brazil, a woman who could not read or write, was such a mother.

Dona Lindu - Mother of Former President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da SilvaSource: revistacrescer.globo.com

Here’s what one of Dona Lindu’s sons said about her:

I thank God for my mother’s courage. Do you know what I keep thinking? How is it that an illiterate woman like that…gather seven* children together and come to São Paulo, in the hope of meeting a husband that she had no idea what he was doing in life?… And succeeded in leaving this husband. And succeeded in raising seven children. Because, if it’s true that marginality is connected to poverty, my mother is the opposite of this. During a period of immense misery, my mother raised five sons that became poor men, but honorable, and three women that didn’t have to prostitute themselves. I think this is very noble. Because of this, I have an immeasurable respect for my mother [he cries].

… My mother had a very great desire for life. She didn’t get depressed or discouraged. She was not a woman who complained about life. I don’t recall my mother complaining about working too much. There was always something that caused her to say: “It’s great, everything’s fine!” Whenever we complained, she would say: “Tch, but there’re people worse off than you.”

* The eldest son had already joined their father in São Paulo.

Translation by Rosaliene Bacchus of interview in June 1993 with Denise Paraná, from her official biography Lula, o filho do Brasil (Lula, The Son of Brazil), Third Edition, São Paulo, Brazil, 2008.

Dona Lindu died in 1980. She did not see her son Lula inaugurated as President of Brazil on 1 January 2003. How could she have imagined that one of her sons would achieve such greatness?

Strong character arises from struggle. Our labor and sacrifices bear fruit of worth. What better gift could a mother hope for?