by Gaby F., Missionary in Honduras
"The alcoholism here in our neighborhood is rampant, perhaps a consequence of the incredible unemployment and the vicious cycle that starts with the young people who witness and live with alcohol in their families as children. The “bolitos” (drunkards) are regularly depreciated, insulted and told they are losers and useless for the trouble they cause. They are not completely without fault, but just the same, the humility of their profound desires is found after taking just a couple minutes of my day to put aside my reservations, ask how things are going, and sincerely listen. Beneath the dirty words, the belligerent fights, the demanding requests for food and money, and the shady deals they get themselves into to make a few lempiras to buy their alcohol, they suffer for the same reasons as the rest of us. They are lonely; they feel like what they are doing is useless, they want someone to love them unconditionally. Having so little, one sees how grateful they are for the simple respect and concern we show for them. Forming friendships with the bolitos, my heart breaks for them more than almost anyone else. For many, I see no exit from this path that leads to nowhere, and I feel impotent to do anything to improve their situation. I sincerely suffer with this hopelessness, with the bolitos, but also with other friends of ours, the old folks in the asilo who are simply waiting out their last days, the women in the jail who have been there for ten years and still have twenty to go, the young people who see no prospect for employment after they graduate from high school, the mothers who spend more time working to make ends meet than raising their kids, and then don’t know what to do when their kids enter into a gang, the families who are separated from their loved ones who have left to the US or Spain to work.
Perhaps I don’t suffer in the same way as my friends, but it is the part of my mission that tests me. Not all of the stories have a happy ending. But it is in this suffering of mine that I find compassion-literally “to suffer with.” Letting myself assume some of the suffering of my friends, I begin to really love them. I look back at my year and a half here, and many things are the same. The bolitos still drink, the people are still unemployed, the gangs still exist, the heartbreaking violence never ends, the young people still leave for the US to work, and there are still people who have nothing to eat. But the difference is that I love these people, and they love me, and because of that, all of these sad stories that perhaps don’t have a conventionally “happy ending” are worth living, and we find the way to be happy together because of the love we share. This is the miracle that God gives us, the ability to find this profound happiness in the midst of the day to day sufferings that we share.
“Gaby, you know that I’ve never lived in this part of the neighborhood, but it’s here I hang out every day. You know why?” tells me one of our bolito friends, “because here, there are people who love me. I’m only here because I’m loved here.”