E very Christmas in multi-ethnic Hong Kong, a number of Hindus come to Mass to pay homage to Baby Jesus. They listen to the songs, readings and homily. At Communion, they come up in line with their arms folded over their chests to receive a blessing.
Last Christmas Eve, a man surprised me after Mass. He had to repeat his question, since I did not understand it the first time. “May I touch your feet?” he asked. “Ah … OK,” I responded, taken aback.
He got down on his knees, following Hindu custom, and with his head almost touching the floor put his fingers on the tips of both my shoes. I felt embarrassed, because I am nobody special, not a yogi or a guru.
Now I know why Peter felt embarrassed at the Last Supper, when Jesus came to wash his feet.
Michael Sloboda, M.M.
H ere in Tanzania, where I serve as a Maryknoll lay missioner, Jesca was unaware of her HIV status when she gave birth to her first child eight years ago. After she began showing symptoms, test results confirmed that she was HIV-positive. The clinic advised her to get her daughter, Elizabeti, tested, as well. It was then she learned that her daughter had been infected.
Jesca and Elizabeti both began antiretroviral therapy and were referred to Uzima Centre, where I work. Clinics can provide testing and medication, but what they can’t provide is accompaniment.
Through our program, women learn how to improve their overall health. They also learn the importance of giving birth at a designated hospital.
The accompaniment and education Jesca received at Uzima Centre made it possible for her second daughter, Justina, to be born without HIV. Elizabeti, now in first grade, is part of our Upendo Group for HIV-positive children. Jesca continues to attend support group meetings for adults living with HIV, and little Justina is doing great.
A little boy was hanging on to his mother’s hand and carrying a stuffed toy while we grown-ups rushed into the airport to check in. Maryknoll Sister Joy Esmenda and I were accompanying the migrant mother and child as part of our volunteer service on the U.S./Mexico border in Tucson, Arizona. They were on their way to a sponsor.
To our dismay, we were told at the counter that the flight was canceled and they had to rebook for a 6 a.m. flight the following day. They had only $20 in their possession — not enough for a taxi ($40 fare), let alone food during travel. Disappointed, we returned to the Casa Alitas welcome center where they had been staying.
Sister Joy prepared sandwiches for the family’s journey and we left Casa Alitas at 4 a.m. As they were getting out of the car, the mother handed us the $20 bill. We simultaneously said, “Thank you, but no — that is for your journey.”
Sister Joy stayed in the car while I accompanied mother and child to the gate. They were both so grateful. All smiles, the boy showed me his stuffed toy and said he sleeps with it at night in bed.
Boarding time was finally announced, and mother and child got in line. As we hugged and said our goodbyes, the boy suddenly raised his hand with his stuffed toy. He wanted to give it to me as a token of their appreciation.
With tears welling in my eyes, I remembered the Little Drummer Boy who came to the stable where Jesus was born. Without a gift to bring, he played his drum and sang: “I am a poor boy, too — pa rum pum pumpum / I have no gift to bring … that’s fit to give our king. … Shall I play for you — pa rum pum pum pum / on my drum? / … Then he smiled at me — pa rum pum pum pum / Me and my drum.”
I nodded approvingly at the boy’s generosity and said, “That’s for you to keep, so you can sleep well at night.” He smiled and waved goodbye.
Featured image: A young boy in El Salvador is shown holding a musical instrument. (Sean Sprague/El Salvador)