Reminders of a Little Boy

The street dogs here eat away at my heart. Some days more so than others. I want to love and care for them. I want to feed them and see their tails wag in expression of happiness. Instead I see them cower as they run the streets, hungry for love, care and nourishment. They live moment to moment with a great weight on their shoulders, survival. Sometimes they are yelled at when they try to ask for food. Sometimes a heavy force connect with their being and I hear them whimper as they run away, run nowhere and anywhere. There is no home for them. It would be all too easy to give them a home. But that is not why I am here.

Yesterday I witness something I’ve believed all along. The reminder brought me incredible joy. This moment was special. A young boy, still just a baby, was sitting outside a shop eating crackers without any worry tickling his mind. A dog I see around the shop often was roaming around earlier and reappeared, approaching the boy. The boy looked at the dog, saw his hunger, then looked down into his hands where he held his cracker. He instinctively broke off a piece of his own food and held out his hand for this dog to receive. The dog was grateful, but still hungry. He was steady where he sat and looked up at the boy again. Again I watched the boy break off a piece of his cracker, which was now nearly finished, and held it out for the dog to receive. It was so simple. The boy saw the dog’s hunger and gave him food to eat. He did not look for his mother in neither question nor fear. He did not hesitate. He understood, a boy not yet ready to speak, and accepted the human responsibility to care for all living kind.

It is in our nature from the very beginning to care like this boy has. What happens that a person can begin to ignore? That a person can refuse this responsibility and act as if it does not matter? What do you think this world would look like, what do you think her people would look like, what her creatures would look like, if everyone cared like this boy?

Where has our instinct to love and care for all God’s creation without the question of how or why gone? I do not have the answer. The answer lies in you and in you alone.

How can we live more like this little boy?

Love in Practice

I’m really happy about how comfortable all of my experience has been so far, even in light of all the struggles and bumps in the road along the way. Even through awkwardness or really wishing I could just speak Spanish already, I feel home. The challenges make this journey that much more beautiful and I know that, though not always in the moment, and I do appreciate and accept them.

Nevertheless they are challenges and sometimes life here, though magnificent and wonderful, is just hard. The days where I forget why I’m here make these days even more difficult to live through. I was definitely not able to fully explain why I wanted to come here with Rostro de Cristo when I tried to and I think I just didn’t know the words to describe it. After reading a bit of this book, No Greater Love, a compilation of Mother Teresa’s work and beliefs, I finally feel like I can put words to what my heart had been feeling. Thinking back on it, I don’t know how I trusted myself with something as big as this, because I was having trouble explaining it all to myself. All I knew was that my heart knew and somehow I was able to know that was enough. I let it steer my life and that was that. But now I get it. I get what my heart was feeling. I get why the mission of Rostro de Cristo is so important as I felt it was. I knew presence was a big part of it and I longed for that. I believe in the pillars of the program and in what I would be doing here but now it has really all come together. Mother Teresa talks about what God asks of us, which is not to solve any one person’s problems or even the problems of our world. God asks that we accept our brothers and sisters of this world and love them. Be with them. Care for them. Of course, solving problems of the world in any way that I can is a way I can show love for these people but first I have to learn to love them, really truly love them as Christ would have me love them. Mother Teresa talks about the problems of the world and how serving people isn’t always as easy as giving someone a piece of bread to satisfy hunger or building something to satisfy another need. Sometimes the worst way people suffer isn’t what they lack on the outside but what they lack on the inside. How can I serve people who suffer inwardly. How I can serve people who have been rejected by society, who are outcasts, who are lonely and are in need of a friend, who are misunderstood and ignored. Mother Teresa speaks about how in her experience she has seen how this kind of suffering can sometimes be much worse than outward suffering because it is a suffering of the heart. Sometimes the best way we can serve people is to simply be with them, show them they matter, that we care and that we will listen to them and love them. That is what the mission of Rostro de Cristo is all about and I believe that is what Christ’s love is all about. If I can learn how to serve the “least of these” and love as Christ loves, I can learn how to serve people around the world in other ways as well. I felt so called to be here because God wanted me to learn about love. And I love my neighbors. And I have seen how presence, simply being with people, goes a long way. More than you would think. More than I’ve ever known or thought could be. It’s incredible really. How something so simple can be so healing and life giving. I know this because it goes both ways. And their presence in my life has made me feel alive. Christ’s love brings me alive.

“When I pick up a starving person off the street and offer him a bowl of rice…I can satisfy his hunger. But a person that has been beaten or feels unwanted or unloved or fearful or rejected by society experiences a kind of poverty that is much more painful and deep…Remember, it is the individual that is important to us. In order to love a person, one must come close to him or her.” Mother Teresa

When I was explaining what I had read to a friend in a letter, this is what I wrote:

Reading all of this brought me the light again of understanding presence. I am in Ecuador in this small community growing relationships with just a few neighbors, which really doesn’t influence any real change for a large group of people, but person to person, it all matters so much still. I am in Ecuador not to “do” anything like change a system, but rather to comfort the people I am with. To get to know them and make them feel wanted, loved, remembered and give them hope. I am here to love and experience the many wonderful and beautiful fruits of love and live fully in that, realizing that this love is so life-giving. That this love should be part of my everyday life no matter where I am in the world. So when I feel limited and feel like I can’t make any change, I remember I am giving people love which can cure the deeper inner pain and cannot always be noticed on the outside. I remember that I am giving hope and showing people they are important and their lives do matter enough that I would come to spend time with them all the way from home wherever that may be.

When I forget all of this, it is those days I find most difficult. I find that I wish I could “do” something sometimes. Feel like my impact here is making a difference. I have no doubt I will continue living a life of service wherever I go in the many different ways that service can be, but here in Ecuador I am living a very specific  kind of service and I have to remind myself why it is so important. I think starting off this way, of being and not doing, before I go off with all of my ideas and things I want to “do”, will really help me understand the things I want to “do” and how to go about doing them with the love I will learn here in Ecuador. It will all fit together and it is fitting that this experience come before the others.

Still, it’s hard to ignore what I feel passionate about or what I feel I would normally be able to help with or do something about. When I see the street dogs skinny and hungry, being ignored and abused, all I want to do is care for them, or at the very least give them bread. I want them to know someone loves them and they are not alone. I wish I could do something for them. But that is not why I’m here. When I hear families struggling with money or talk about needing something, I wish I could just give them that thing they need or help them with whatever it is they lack so they have one less road block to figure out but that is also not why I am here. I am not here to patch up anything with money, because it will not last. I am not here to tell people how things should be like family matters, support systems or gender roles. I am simply here to be. And to love.

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing…love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1Corinthians 13:3, 7-8

The Story of Esperanza

September 5, 2014

Hope. It is one of the strongest emotions I have ever experienced next to love. Hope does something in us that makes something about the world around us change. Each time I encounter hope, she takes a different form. What a pleasant surprise it is to welcome her many ways on any given day. I like to be hopeful. Hope is a wonderful feeling. Even false hope. I would rather have hope that is false and be ok in those moments than always expect the worst and be on edge. Maybe because I had never experienced the worst and the disappointment never too terrible. Still, Why make yourself suffer for a long period of time when you can be at peace. Hope does that for me. Even when a storm is coming. Even when I may know a storm may be coming.

Hope can surprise you though, and in only a small moment, it can vanish as if it had never even been there. Yesterday, I struggled with hope. I prayed I could find hope. I prayed everything would be ok. That I could, at the very least, make some kind of positive impact. Even after the work we put in, the time we spend figuring things out and being present in the moment, it might not matter. It is those moments I have a hard time facing. That I am insignificant. That I am limited.

I long to make a difference. Even if I can’t make a difference in action, I hope I can make a difference in presence. When I am sick, my mom brings me juice or soup while I lay in bed all day. She sits beside me and keeps me company. She cannot cure me, but she tries anyway just to make things a little better. She is present with me. And it always makes all the difference. Sometimes Roxy will come into my room and jump up on my bed to lay beside me. She certainly has no power in curing me, nor can she bring me any soup or juice, but her simple presence and sweet kisses make all the difference. When there is nothing I can do to change a situation, I hope that I will at the very least be able to bring that kind of peace and comfort of companionship. That through my presence I can do something to make things a little better. I didn’t know there could be a moment where it wouldn’t matter. Where no matter my efforts, life would take it’s course.

Hope has taught me that there is much we may not understand. Much lying beneath the surface I cannot see. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try anyway. Just because life will go her own way doesn’t mean I should never try. Even when I feel insignificant and limited, I can not take away the fact that I have been changed. “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I have always loved and lived by this prayer. Sometimes I do have to accept that I cannot make a change, but I can always change myself. I know now it is in the things I cannot change that God finds a way to humble and change me.

And even after my experience of feeling all hope is lost, I know it isn’t, and I still hope. Because I remember that it is in the times I feel most hopeless that it is those times I must call to God for assistance. That I must rely on Him and trust that He will find a way to work things out when I cannot. Maybe by working through someone else and maybe in some other way. But it is ok to feel limited. I am not made to be perfect. I am simply made to love and be loved in return. Hope has taught me to stay grounded in humility to do just that. And I hope she always will.