I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.
I sat across from Sister Katherine and told her about you – about how people across the globe loved the children she cared for, had been praying for Gabriel and his brothers and sisters, and were desperate for a way to serve them. She smiled, warmly, gratefully. I told her we felt that we were supposed to – desperately want to – do something for them. I asked if we could fund a project, assist with anything they needed at the orphanage to help them love the babies.
Sister Katherine’s warm, grateful smile never left her face as she told me our project wasn’t possible. “We live on God’s providence and individual contributions.” Not our projects. For an instant I was crushed – it’s irrational, irresponsible even to refuse to accept our offer for a new playground, a new wing, something to make the babies more comfortable.
But the nonsensical calm and joy in the Sisters’ voices and faces as they wipe the crying children’s eyes and sing to them and laugh as they tickle them – the nonsensical peace and delight that radiates from them as they serve – there is a wisdom in this unreasonable joy. A wisdom that suggests that they do not live according to my theories about what is rational. In Sister Katherine’s grateful smile I read the suggestion that perhaps I should spend the next many weeks learning the secret behind their wisdom – a wisdom which produces joy amid extreme need – before trying to rush in to tidy up the need itself.
Sister Genet came in later, and shared with me a lot about Mother Teresa, who founded their order of the Missionaries of Charity. She explained how Mother was not afraid to ask for money when the poor needed it. But Mother Teresa said, “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” She insisted that people give themselves; money is just extra.
So I said that I understood, that I would keep coming back, that I would have faith that as we learned their wisdom, they might accept our extra. And I believe they will.
I will keep showing up for these babies, spreading our love to them. You will spread your love everywhere you go. And together, when we have given ourselves, we can give the extra.
Thanking the Sisters for their time, I walked down into the place where the children live. This time I spent the day not outside where the bigger kids are, but where the smaller ones live – the two and three year olds. There were five children on the left side of the room, children who were physically and mentally disabled. They were strapped to chairs to keep them upright, or secured in wooden frames, which I am not sure they ever got out of – there being too many children and too few hands. I spent the day with these five, taking you with me and showing them your heart.
They loved you. One precious girl, you should have seen her smile – the joy that ran into her eyes – as you lifted her out of her wooden box and held her arms so she could “walk” around the room like the rest of the kids, maybe for the first time. The sick baby, too, he loved you. Born too early and too ill, he was sweating a lot, and his tiny stick legs stuck out from his hard, distended belly as he moaned. But when you picked him up and rocked him for a long time, he was calm and peaceful.
As I held our ill, new friend, I heard the Sisters talking about how a baby had just been adopted, but I couldn't hear who it was.
Later, as I was preparing to leave I heard them talk about the adopted baby again: “She’s just been adopted, her family is coming for her soon, and they want to know if you can measure her feet so they can bring shoes. It’s Gabriel.”
It seems that I got the wrong name for the child who noticed and pointed and loved. He was not Gabriel. But she was – the one who was just adopted – the one whose feet would be measured that day, so a new, joyful mother who was preparing her room and her life and her wardrobe could know. So Gabriel could have, for the first time, a pair of shoes and a family of her very own. To hold onto, to touch, to cherish. To hold her and comfort her and protect her. To never be ripped from her.
I can’t help but think that your prayers this week, for Gabriel, gave her that gift.
Give yourself first. The money is extra.
Let us not doubt that miracles will happen here. They already have. Ask Gabriel.