“Several days ago I had the pleasure of going to see one of our friends, Patti (Grandmother) Rebecca. I was accompanied by David, a French volunteer whose Tamil is a bit more advanced than mine, but not by much. Patti Rebecca lives in a small village called Tambaran very close to the Garden in a little green concrete hut. She has had bone cancer for 14 years, which mainly manifests itself very painfully in her right leg.
When we arrived at Patti’s house she asked us to sit down, which we understood. Then she asked us if we ate, what we ate, etc. So far so good. Then she rambled off a paragraph or so of Tamil, speaking excitedly with her hands and raising her voice. I had no idea what she was saying. “Um, amma?” I ventured, which means, “Um, yes?” Patti leaned over and laughed so hard I thought she would cry. So she just kept trying, kept asking David and I long excited questions and laughing when we didn’t know what she was saying. And it became a game for all three to try to see what we understood out of each other, all three laughing and joking when we couldn’t get it.
Suddenly Albert and George arrived to spend some time with Patti as well. Though she was overly happy to see them she was embarrassed because she did not know that they were coming and she had spent the last of her money on coffee for herself, David, and me. She had nothing to offer them. Almost instantly I thought of the widow in the Gospels that puts the 2 coins in the offertory at the temple. And I was so touched.
Patti, who cannot express herself in words to us, who has no idea why David and I personally desire to be with her or to be in India, who has only a few rupees - she not only gives us a gift with the only money she has, but she really enjoys us, really takes us fully into her house, into her life and into herself. I was impressed at the sacrifice she made for us, but more blown away by the pure joy she took in making it. And I realized that the widow who leaves the temple is laughing. She is really enjoying life. She walks out of the temple with her arms wide open, because she will give everything to God and for this she knows pure joy.
As we left Tambaran I sat quietly on the back of the scooter, thinking about how I came to India to treat the poor as if they were Jesus, to love them like Jesus. But the people here are treating me as Jesus. Father Thierry speaks about our mission as The Kindergarten of Love – in these places we have to learn everything again. We have to learn how to speak, we have to learn how and what to eat, which medicine to use, etc. And we learn how to love. These people become our teachers. I don’t know what Patti Rebecca is saying. And I clearly don’t know how she cooks or what medicine she puts on her leg. But she is my teacher. Because she loves me. Because she is my friend.”