I am in El Naranjo, a small rural town in Nicaragua. With the sun on my face and dust in the air, I enter the humble home of a woman named Anna. I smile and greet her, excited to change her life, possibly through a microfinance program.

She is a single mom of three young boys. I look around and her adobe home is bare, with two toy trucks, a small TV, and just enough chairs for me and two others. Two of her boys play outside, peeking in the doorway every once in a while. They look at us and giggle. We look different. The house provides a refreshing shade as we begin to ask questions to learn about Anna.

“My husband left me.” She speaks quietly, without bitterness.

She talks about her work in the coffee fields, picking beans during the harvest season. The rest of the year is spent working 12 to 16 hour days as a maid in two cities nearby. Her life is hard, but she accepts it. I want to know more.

“What is your greatest challenge?” I ask. She merely looks at her boys and is at a loss for words. I don’t need her words though — I feel it. Her greatest challenge is also the source of her greatest joy.

As I finish the interview, I feel a tug in my heart to say something. How can I give her comfort and assurance that I understand her struggle? How can I express that, although I’m not a mother myself, I have a mother who loves me to the same extent, and I know her love, so I know Anna’s love?

I turn to my translator. “Can you tell her this?” I pause, thinking, and I look at her brown eyes with smile wrinkles creased from the sun. “To me, you are a beautiful mother, and I know you love your children very much. Thank you, for who you are and what you do.”

She has tears in her eyes. I can’t hold mine back either.

“Gracias.” Anna takes hold of my hand with her hands, weathered, yet soft, and has a tearful smile on her face. We part after a tight hug and I keep this encounter into my memory forever.

The gift of a listening ear. The words, “You are a great mother.” I learned that, sometimes, it’s the little things that change a life.