"But how is your soul?" she asked me, her eyes seeming to penetrate my exterior, yet her countenance so gentle and full of grace.
With these words, Mama Maggie stopped me in my tracks. Here was a woman, her life dedicated to helping impoverished children in the slums of Garbage City, Egypt, and she was asking about my soul.
The needs she encounters on a daily basis are immense – families who lack the most basic of resources, children without access to education, babies who have been abandoned. This is the world to which she has committed herself.
Mama Maggie’s legacy will succeed her: 92 schools; 18,000 children nurtured, trained and equipped every day in these schools; 13,000 children and families provided with care in their homes.
Whether meeting with a Member of Congress, a child in the slums of Egypt, a single mother or a lowly staffer on Capitol Hill, one truth drives her: every soul has value.
And so, in that moment I first met her in the halls of Congress, Mama Maggie reminded me that all great work begins with a humility and deep concern for every person, regardless of status or place in life, irrespective of what they have to offer. The one matters as much as the many.
Nearly two years later, I found myself sitting across the table at a local coffee shop, exchanging ideas about the future of what would become Bittersweet Monthly with founder Kate Schmidgall.
Kate shared her vision to creatively bring to life stories of social good – to inspire and engage others through artistic journalism. We mapped out the spectrum of needs in our city and around the world and discussed inspiring organizations working to meet those needs. We talked about poverty, homelessness, obstetric fistula…and Mama Maggie.
These are the stories we would tell: The Mama Maggies of the world, the unsung heroes laboring tirelessly to serve those in need and doing so without accolade or broad recognition.
Fast forward to October 2016, eight years after that initial encounter. Here we are, telling the story of Stephen’s Children, capturing the work of Mama Maggie and all the brave souls who toil alongside her, bringing to light the lives and dignity of resilient people a largely forgotten land.
This is not just a story – it is the fulfillment of a dream. It is the culmination of six years’ work, resulting in the opportunity and privilege to introduce a new audience to a truly kind and beautiful person who started an inspiring organization that has changed tens of thousands of lives.
It is now my hope that with the fulfillment of this dream, with the telling of this story, others will be inspired by this same truth, first played out for me so many years ago: every life has value, every person holds potential. And who knows how that potential will be unlocked if we only take the time to make a human connection, to pull ourselves from the business and demands of life to extend a little love and grace to the person in front of us.