|I recently read a story, met an inspiring woman, and read a scripture passage that helped me to understand--once again-- what our Mission in Nicaragua (and wherever we live) really is all about: living the Gospel in real time! |
Here is the story:
A truck, crowded with concentration-camp victims, is on its way to the gas chambers. Everyone, including the guards, are silent, because all know the final destination. Suddenly, a man grabs the hand of one of the condemned and begins to read his palm. “Oh, I see you have a long lifeline," he says aloud. “And you are going to have three children.” He is filled with excitement and goes from one man to another predicting futures filled with long lives, loving families, and great joy. Immediately, the moods of the prisoners’ change. One can sense a rising hope. The guards become confused; what seemed inevitable is now in doubt. For whatever reason -surprise, uncertainty, wonder - the men are taken back to the barracks instead of to the chambers. The palm reader was the poet Robert Desnos. What the poet did for these passengers to Auschwitz was to revive the imaginations of those trapped by despair.
The Gospel is Alive!
The story of Dona Rita tells the tale of how one person can revive the imaginations of those trapped by despair.
We ran into Dona Rita on the way to a work site for a Community Service project this past month. She was going somewhere, but nobody really knows where. Dona Rita is about 86 years old. She gave me permission to take her picture. She lives on her own. She prefers to sleep on the dirt ground on her small porch in a poverty that only saints like St. Francis have tried to imitate and could bear. She has repeatedly been beaten and robbed of her spare change, food, and even the clothes that people give her to help alleviate her sufferings. She has been found sleeping along the roadsides in the midst of huge mansions and tin roof wood shacks that make up one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Nicaragua.
We have known Dona Rita for four years. Last week when we stopped to talk with her and ask her how she was doing, she told us she was on her way to visit some family members in Managua to help her nephews. In reality, she can no longer get on a bus and her family members have apparently given up on her. She told us that she has many friends in high places in Nicaragua, as well as friends in Europe and the USA. “One day…” she tells of how she is going to stay in one of her homes in Philadelphia.
Dona Rita can be seen in this neighborhood daily. She shuffles slowly, one step at a time with her walker, but she moves with determination. She has somewhere she is going. The day we visited her, she was on her way to buy food for a big party: a party that she was going to organize “to give food to everyone who comes, with Caribbean music and dancing,” which was going to be played by a musical group from Bluefields. Before finishing her description of how the party was going to be, she invited all the work crew to come to the party.
During the four days of our manual labor work project, the youth group from the Orphanage visited with her and helped to clean her home and yard. On the day of the party, Dona Rita had provided the dream, the youth group brought the food, the teenagers played and danced, and we all had a great time. Our son Christopher also enjoyed himself.
We all learned a valuable lesson from Dona Rita. Every day you have to have a dream and a desire to fulfill and that will get you through the day. Dona Rita has reportedly escaped every retirement home she has been taken to because as she says, "I prefer to trek with pain than sit down and quit." Why? Because she is walking towards her dream; a dream that always includes everyone.
Her uncomfortable presence reminds us of the poor in our midst. In a world that is often dominated by a radical consumerist and individualist influence on every corner, Dona Rita desires to dream, share and serve others. In a society that proclaims old people should not have to suffer, Dona Rita prefers to be beaten physically rather than surrender her spirit and die spiritually. Dona Rita is unstoppable, and for me she is a hero. Maybe, at best, we can befriend her with along with others who care for her (both the rich and poor of the neighborhood.) In the future, when she asks for help we can be there for her. All of us can help fulfill her dream: food for everyone, a party, dancing with live Caribbean music, friends and family surrounding her to enjoy life together.
The Gospel and Dona Rita
For me, Dona Rita is a living Gospel. She is much like the old woman Jesus praised in Mark: Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’ (Mk, 13, 41-44)
This poor widow gave all she had. Everything. Nothing was left, except her belief that God will take care of her. God bless and long live Dona Rita! Lord, teach us to have the faith of the poor and little ones of this earth.
May God bless and inspire in you a dream that includes all of Gods people!
All the best in 2010,
Patrick, Damarys and Christopher
Patrick T. Duffy, Jr
Charles de Foucauld Lay Missionary
Apartado LM 131
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Damarys, Christopher and Patrick visiting Cincinnati (Click photo for larger image.)
More images from Nicaragua
February 10, 2010
Peace and greetings to all!
Publicado por Pat Duffy, Jr