I was visiting patients at a medical clinic here in Malakal, South Sudan. I noticed one of the patients, a 5-year-old boy, sitting on a bench waiting for the doctor. The boy had come to the clinic with his mother. He had a painful ear infection that needed treatment. I stopped and said hello to him. We shook hands and I gave him a blessing.
Later that day the boy’s father came to talk to me. He was anxious to tell me what his son said about our meeting.
“My son said, ‘I am very happy today,’ ” the father told me. “When I asked why, he said, ‘because that priest came to visit me today.’ ” The father just wanted to thank me.
I was amazed that my small gesture meant so much.
Michael Bassano, M.M.
A s I awoke Christmas morning, I remembered a blessed experience I had in South Africa.
Entering an orphanage for disabled or unwanted children where I spent my free time, I heard a child crying a hurtful cry at the end of the large room. I went to see what was giving him so much distress. There he was in bed, on his side and facing the wall a few feet away. My heart sank.
As I gently picked him up in his fragile fetal position, I could feel that his body was cold and stiff. Sitting with him at the end of the bed, I cradled him in my arms, facing the center of the room, where all the activity was taking place. At first, he looked at me with questioning eyes.
I began to rock him ever so gently and sang to him quietly while my fingers gently stroked his fists, enticing them to open. Slowly, slowly his muscles began to relax. Before I knew it, he was fast asleep with the most adorable smile on his face.
I remained this way for some time, contemplating the birth of Jesus. Then as I began to stir, he awoke and just lay there looking up at me with bright, beautiful eyes, and he gave me a big smile.
When the other assistants asked me how I got him to stop crying, I explained that I sensed he just wanted to know he was accepted and welcomed to their world. They, like me, were in awe. I returned him to his bed, this time facing the other children. He was then a happy child.
The words of Jesus came to mind: “Whoever receives one child such as this, receives me” (Matthew 18:5).
Lucille Malaney, Lay Mission-Helpers
I was visiting other Maryknoll sisters in Cochabamba, Bolivia. One cold winter night we were stopped at a traffic light in our old jeep when I saw a small child of 4 or 5 years old running between cars. He was holding out his hands, vainly hoping that someone would give him a coin. He made his way to the curb, sat down and slumped over, exhausted. Quickly the light changed and we had to move, but I could not get the sight of this child out of my mind. Does he have parents? Where are they? Where will he sleep tonight? I don’t know the answers. I may never see this child again. However, I pray for him. He is the Christ Child for me. Emmanuel!
Mary Lou Ann Rajdl, M.M.
During a recent gathering with women at the Garden of Hope center in the Brazilian city of Bayeux, Dona Cleide arrived late and began greeting some of the 30 women in our mental health class. I gently remarked how greeting people was a beautiful part of Brazilian culture but that perhaps we could save those moments for the end of the activity in order not to lose our focus. A half hour later, a huge truck pulled up in front of the building. Responding to its persistent honking, one of the leaders quietly left the class. Trying to follow my own suggestion, I continued our discussion even though I sensed a lot of activity on the floor below. To everyone’s delight, the interruption was the arrival of a donation of papayas, which we all enjoyed!
Kathleen Bond, MKLM