I happened to stop at the home of one of my African friends in Tanzania. As I entered, I could hear all sorts of exciting noise coming from the living room. My friend and three others were playing Scrabble. They were really into it and talking in loud and animated voices. I thought this was a great way for them to improve their English.
I asked who was winning. They said they didn’t know because they were not keeping individual scores. In fact, they were helping each other when needed. They even allowed the dictionary to be used. I was a bit surprised because the game was not being played “according to the rules.”
They explained that they were not interested in individual scores. The whole idea was that the four of them would beat the total combined scores of previous games. They were not playing for individual honors but for community gain. What they wanted was to get the maximum points from the letters they had to the greatest extent possible. They also explained that by playing this way, all of them benefited from learning new words in English, which was their third or fourth language.
What a concept! I was so touched by their communal effort and never forgot the lesson.
Gabe Hurrish, MKLM
Recently I took a boat trip with Teresa Nyagak, a member of our Catholic community in Malakal, South Sudan, to the nearby village of Wau Shilluk on the west bank of the Nile River. Almost all of the 40,000 people there had fled for their lives because of fighting among opposing armies in South Sudan’s civil war.
We had brought a large crucifix that was repaired and placed it on the wall behind the altar of the Catholic community. Then we conducted a prayer service in the church and noticed that it was mostly government soldiers who attended, with only one woman and two children present. I saw one soldier in particular deeply immersed in prayer. Was he praying for peace in his war-torn country? I wondered. Only God knows. May peace touch the hearts of all of us.
Michael Bassano, M.M.
Silvia was a young woman receiving care at Divine Providence Hospital in El Salvador, where my husband Erik and I were serving as Maryknoll lay missioners. She came from a poor family. In addition to having cancer, she was HIV-positive. But her biggest difficulty was being far away from her 3-year-old son. When they talked by phone or when they got to see each other, he always asked her for a toy car. Silvia lamented that she did not have the means to grant his request. While I was home in the States, a friend gave me a toy car, which I gratefully passed along to Silvia for her son. Wishes can come true!
Margo Cambier, MKLM
With the help of friends and benefactors from the United States, a women’s group I was working with in Haiti was able to purchase a piece of land on which they planted vegetables. Their next dream is to dig a well and install a pump on the property so they do not have to wait for the unpredictable rain or the agricultural pump two miles away to provide water for their garden. At times they have paid for water from that pump and waited for six or more days to get it because of power outages and the high demand for water. The women know their community garden can only be sustainable if they have available water.
Susan Nchubiri, M.M.
While in India, I went to the city of Bangalore for an interreligious conference and stayed at a local seminary. At dinner, a seminarian offered me a plate of chicken curry.
“I can’t eat chicken since I am on a vegetarian diet,” I told him. “Can you please bring me an egg omelet?”
“Oh, I see,” he said. “You don’t eat real chickens but only potential ones.”
John P. Martin, M.M.