In Appreciation

By Susan McNeal Velasquez.
By Susan McNeal Velasquez.

It’s that time of the year when our graduating high school seniors anxiously await news of acceptance to the college they have their heart set on.

There are also local scholarships to be awarded and panels who are diligently meeting to decide who the recipient’s will be this year.

My youngest daughter, Sara, was lucky enough to get her grammar school and high school education at Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School. She received her college degree from Columbia University, well prepared for that opportunity by our caring and committed teachers throughout the years.

I can still remember the waves of excitement and gratitude when she received writing scholarships from the Festival of Arts, the Daughter’s of the American Revolution and awards from Dusoe and Glenn E. Vedder. She received an award from Laguna Beach’s Rotary Club for Spanish language and was also California Girl’s State Representative. She graduated in 1998.

When she was 8, she saw the two teenagers waving from a convertible in the Patriot’s Day Parade and wanted to know why they were in the parade. That image must have implanted itself in her mind. Ten years later, she was the parade’s junior citizen of the year.

What an extraordinary support system our community provides. These contributions go on year after year, representing untold hours of volunteer fundraising and conscientious thought from these committed organizations.

2 col velasquez _o
From left, Stephan holding Aroha, Sara Velasquez and Marco.

Fast forward to 2014. Sara and her partner Stephan are doing humanitarian work together and are also parents to Aroha, their “global girl” who just turned 1. The toddler holds passports from New Zealand, Germany and the United States and has traveled on 18 flights in her first year.

Sara’s vision for her life was birthed here and nurtured by this exquisite community that we are so privileged to call our home. I thought I would share a letter that she wrote as a farewell to Islamabad, Pakistan, where they have been working for the past year.

“This is our last two days in Islama’good’. Since I was a teenager, I always wanted to live in this part of the world and feel the monsoon weather first hand. I thought I would feel Rumi in its droplets. I can smell the rain coming – to me it smells like tin and looks like dark blue-purple. The rain rolls in like a thick blanket and you can feel life popping. Everyone is joyous about the rain. Somehow, it teeters on too much and ultimate destruction though – maybe a perfect mirror for this place. I’ve already found Rumi, but the rain felt to me like a respite for the ancient dust warriors that swirl silently through these lands to settle down and stop fighting amongst ancestors – long feuds that still rage and are remembered.

All in all, blessed experiences have happened for me in Pakistan, and I am forever thankful and my heart will hold a special place for this amazing and frustrating country. Aroha was made here, and she has spent the majority of her first year here, so no doubt it is a part of her own DNA as well. When we fly out, my parting wish will be that all the goodness that this beautiful country and beautiful people deserve comes.

I hope that one day soon, globally we all can find joy, beauty, gratitude, and humor in each others’ differences, and find some way to let them shine peacefully without infringing on another or making someone else wrong. Because if there were only one type of flower in the world, or bird, or way of being (and you couldn’t laugh about it) it would all be a bit boring wouldn’t it?

As for us, I felt kissed by angels last night when a totally random “on my path” moment happened – if you know me, you know that I take coincidences as little gifts to say “don’t worry, you are right where you are meant to be”. There are a lot of unknowns about what we are going to do next, but for right now we head over to Phuket for a few beach days, and then home to NZ, and I feel really good about that for our little whanau.” Shukriya Pakistan. Allah hafiz. xox Sara


Susan is the author of: Beyond Intellect: Journey Into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind. Reach her at:


Share this:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here