by Kelly N., on her mission in Manila
Once a week we have cleaning day where we each pick one area of the house to clean thoroughly. It’s not particularly one of the most exciting days of the week – in fact it’s the dreaded day that extra work is added to our normal schedule. I became aware of the fact that I needed to ask God for extra grace this morning to be able to give more of myself; I decided to make a conscious choice to go the “extra mile” when I felt challenged to get frustrated or to be down on myself.
Now, the play/dining room, which is by the front door, was going to be “my” room to clean this morning. I came downstairs ready to conquer the playroom only to find that three boys, two of the most troublesome (confirmed at children’s camp), had let themselves in and were sitting on the bench. Already frustrated knowing that these boys won’t just peacefully leave if I ask them to, I tried to be patient and explain that they couldn’t stay because I needed to clean; my heart was not so open. Not to my surprise, J, who is a bit of a leader among the boys, showed his resistance by laying back on the bench with an expression that read, “make me move.” At that moment I realized I had already closed the door of my heart by first asking them to leave. Once again I had to make the choice to press myself further. After this, rather than trying to send them out I decided to play along with them. I grabbed a handkerchief one of the boys had and started a game we had played at our children’s camp. The boys seemed to enjoy, as well as I, and as the game came to an end they walked out all smiles and without trouble.
After the group left, I began to clean. Not five minutes later and M arrived (also on the naughty list). This time it was easier for me to be open and I invited him in, but for 5 minutes. I explained that I was going to need to continue cleaning. He seemed content with this and to my surprise he immediately sat down and started helping me sort through toys. I let him stay and after he finished I thanked him and gave him a little piece of candy we had left over from Joseph’s despedida. He looked up into my eyes with a big smile and thanked me. The way he looked at me in that moment made me realize he was thanking me not for the candy so much as for the time we had spent together cleaning.
Between my encounter with M, and with the boys who had come earlier, I realized once again the heart of our mission. We are not here to give material help, but to share Christ’s love through friendship and compassion - through being present to those in front of us. I realized that so many of the problems of the children and youth have can be solved by first loving and trying to understand them. There is usually an underlying reason for their actions and misbehavior that needs to be understood. These boys were not looking for trouble, as it so often seemed, but seeking love and attention. When I took the time and effort to understand this and became open, it was amazing how accepting and respectful they “usually” were. And for me, it was a lesson in God’s love: one that is endless, that has no bounds, or time limits. I could only give of myself that morning because I asked for God’s grace and strength in my weakness. Because of this, the dreaded morning of the week became one of my most memorable and joyful days of my mission.