On Christmas Eve, I met a courageous and beautiful woman. She had been in the shelter at one time and had gone through the recovery process at Buen Pastor. She was spending Christmas Eve like I was: with the madres, the women and children, eating tamales the woman had made, drinking atole and Ponche Navideno, and reveling in the company of family.
Her son was as gorgeous and sweet as she was. After talking for a bit, she shared that their doctor gives him two more years to live. He’s 5 and suffers from cystic fibrosis. I was taken aback as they both seemed so gregarious and happy. I asked her how she copes. She told me that in the beginning, it was very difficult, but because of her son’s strength, she’s ok with it now. She believes her son is her greatest teacher and that she still has more to learn from him before he leaves.
As the evening went on, I admired the women, one by one. Each one so lovely and strong in her own way. Arima was there with her daughters, sharing Christmas Eve with us even though she’s no longer at Buen Pastor. It was good to see Arima and her girls luminous and laughing. There are two new women, both 15 years old, each mother to a small, beautiful child. They giggled with Isabel, a new girl at the internado who has no family to care for her on the weekends. Isabel had been helping with the tamales and watching the little ones all day. She’s gaining self respect as the woman recognize and appreciate her helpfulness.
The biggest surprise was M. When she first came to Buen Pastor, she kept to herself, shied away from everyone, kept her eyes lowered, her shoulders hunched, tried to be invisible, and shrunk back when anyone touched her. Her 1 year old daughter shared many of her characteristics. But on Christmas Eve, she was joking with the madres, talking loudly at the center of the table, and playing with her daughter who was equally buoyant. I couldn’t believe the transformation.
All the little ones received balls from Madre Lourdes. They lined up at the bottom of the stairs to throw them up, wait for them to come down, and would do it again. We passed around atole and ponche, shared stories, trying to talk above the bouncing balls. When it was time to leave, I gave all the women a hug, avoiding M so as not to startle her. You can imagine my surprise when she stood in front of me as I turned to leave and said, “Hey, what about me?”
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