By Armando Gutierrez, Volunteer in Valparaiso, Chile
What happens at night in our neighborhood (Porvenir Bajo)? From what I witness outside of my window: the door of Juanita´s corner store are shut, the lamppost light up like candles, and our playground lays silent. It is nothing out of the ordinary. But our hearts have a thirst that goes beyond what we perceive from our window. Somewhere in the night someone cries for compassion, for a presence, for friendship.
During our Saturday nights upon returning home from our chapel, we share a glance of the new world in our Porvenir. We see new faces, hear new voices, and see men gather in places that remain empty during the day. There was beauty in front of us that was hidden like a treasure. The men that often kept silent during the day were out conversing and living in the night. Simon, Benito, and I decided to stay out as well. We put on our extra jacket, packed up our mate (a hot herbal drink from Argentina that is normally shared with others), recited a prayer, and with our rosaries at hand we ventured forth the nightlife. (…)
The first one to shake my hand was Miguel Angel. I have come across him several times during the day, but we never shared more than a hello and goodbye. But in fact he knew who I was and where I came from. He asked if we were lost and I responded, “No, we’re here to be with you.” Miguel Angel was very happy to hear this. He invited us to gather around with the rest and introduced us as, “the young men that help the children.” Many in the group like Cristian told me that his nephew comes to our house on a regular basis and that he is very grateful for thinking of the children. Our conversations of work, jokes, and soccer matches quickly followed. The conversations were so natural that it felt as if I have known each one of them for years. It felt as if I worked alongside them, it felt more that I suffered with them too. I was no longer passing the mate to strangers, I was passing it to Miguel Angel, Cristian, Arturo, Luis, Claudio, and Mauricio, my friends. In a moment of our sharing the clouds disappeared from the sky and the moon lit up brighter than our artificial light from our lamppost. We all contemplated the beautiful sight.. Miguel Angel said with words of wisdom and truth, “That there is a sign of God that no one can deny.” At this moment I couldn’t help but think, who were we to accept such a beautiful friendship, welcoming, and gratitude? Who was I to share this moment with Miguel Angel, a man with a profound love for God. His words will stay in my mind and heart: “I thought you only help children, thank you for listening to me, when will you return?”