By Jessica Morley, Heart’s Home Alumni from Spokane, WA and from the Heart’s Home Center in San Salvador.
Since my return from El Salvador, I find myself contemplating the word memory. What does it mean to remember? What does it mean to remember what I have lived, those I have lived with, and the encounters with their joy and suffering that have shaped my gaze, inviting me deeper to touch the sacredness that resides within each one of us?
The first image that comes to mind when I think about my experience is a river of faces – faces full of life and laughter and strength; faces of children, of mothers, of elderly men, of people of all walks of life living with hope. Then many other images come to mind, more difficult to look at, but inseparable from the joyful ones. These are the images of the suffering carried by these same people, images that come from my simple attempt at being present at the foot of each person’s unique cross.
On one of my last nights in the neighborhood, I closed my eyes and imagined myself winding through the now-familiar passageways surrounding our house, my heart stopping at each door to see and to listen to the reality within – to see the faces that I have come to cherish, and to reflect on what I know about the story of each one. Of the dozens of doors that I “visited” that night, even those of some of the most joyful people I have ever met, every single one cried out with pain – from excruciating loneliness, to stark material poverty, to abuse and gang involvement. The reflection overwhelmed me. The reflection faced me with the universal brokenness present in each one of our lives.
So, what does it mean for me to remember all of this? What does it mean to continue to carry all of this in my heart? Niña Emilia, a loving grandmother living along the train track on the margin of the neighborhood, gifted me with a precious card that I could see she struggled to pen with her hands ravaged by arthritis: “Thank you for caring about me and my granddaughters. I hope that you don’t forget us.” Then, dear Niña Julia informed me that “God must have forgot to cook you – that’s why your skin looks like milk!” So, lest I make the same mistake as God and forget to complete the work that has begun in me, l pray that the well of memory within my heart may expand, that I can enter into what Fr. Greg Boyle calls “the spaciousness of God’s heart” and continually re-member myself to that living pulse of love connecting us all – past, present, and future. May I remember by living in and from the love given to me as a treasure and home.