Thursday, October 4, 2012


Presence…something that seems so simple but is yet often so difficult. In one way it is just being there, or witnessing something. In another way though, presence means being present physically, emotionally, mentally and especially spiritually. The purpose is to making your presence felt not so you can be important but so that the other person/group knows that you are there for them. You are there fully as you are, as God’s hands and feet to guide, encourage, comfort, and help them in whatever way possible. As I spoke of in my last blog when you are present you are able to see not only the child in what they are doing at the moment but Christ within them. My work here includes being present to each and every child whenever I am working with them. This can sometimes be difficult when I am working with more than one child at a time because as the gospel today from Luke says, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” (10:2). There are often so many girls needing many things but very few of us to answer their requests. Sometimes though, it means have one child sitting on my lap reading a book, while one is on my right learning to draw and another sitting on my left working on math homework. Other times it requires hopping from place to place because one child needs help with laundry out back and another with homework inside Hogar. But some days one child needs a little extra help and patience and I have been blessed to give that to them so that they can get through the day and finish all of their work. During those times I have to remember two specific things in order to be present. Firstly, presence and being able to recognize the beauty in every child requires a lot of patience, something that I continue to work on every day here at the Hogar. The second requirement was laid out in the gospel from Matthew this Tuesday:

“The disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven’” (18:1-5).

In order to be present you have to be able to empathize and put yourself in the shoes of the other person or group. You have to become not childish but rather child-like. This means simple, innocent, sensitive, patient, and joyful. It also requires an immense amount of humility in order to put the other person first and your wants, needs, and opinions last. Especially when it comes to children it is important to be able to see where they are coming from, meet them where they are at, and help them move on from there. This isn’t always easy especially because I don’t know many of these children’s pasts and experiences they have gone through that have left lasting impacts on them. There are many examples that I have of learning to be present here but I would like to share three from the past couple weeks.

Me with two of the girls while we were playing one evening outside the church.

The first was a week ago in the afternoon when the girls were working on chores, laundry, and homework. I noticed that three of the girls weren't around so I went to find them. Walking out into the entryway/playground I saw them all playing. I stopped and talked to one of them about her chores and laundry. She said that they were both finished and I asked her if I could see her clean laundry on the line out back. Responding with a yes but please carry me I looked at this 9 year old and told her that I knew she could walk. But she didn't want to so she grabbed my arms and tried to make me pick her up. Eventually she was just lying on the ground and so instead of leaving or trying to force her I sat down next to her. I told her that when she was ready to walk we would go back there and check out her laundry. I even tried to reason with her offering to carry her part of the way back to the inside of the Hogar if she could walk to the back on her own. She whined, put her head on my lap, and even tried to hang off of my back. Eventually after a few minutes she said she was ready so she stood up and we walked back to find her newly washed clothes. The rest of the afternoon she did her homework efficiently and without whining and even got a break to play.

Another day in the morning I was sitting at the table in the library helping one of the 1st graders with her homework and she was doing a pretty good job. But once her classmate finished her homework before her and got to read she started getting upset. At one point I pointed out a mistake and she lost it. She started screaming, crying, and hitting the table. When I tried to calm her down she freaked out even more and still crying went under the table into the corner. At this point she was out of reach but clearly very upset. So, although it may sound strange I got under the table and sat next to her. She crawled into my lap and I held her and tried to comfort her while she cried for a while. I told her that I was there, that everything would be alright, and that when she was ready we could talk. Eventually she stifled her sobs enough to tell me that her math homework was hard, that she wanted my help, and was ready to try. We got out from under the table, finished her homework, and then she went to read finally back to her little joyful, affectionate, accomplished self.

Another little girl who often doesn't want to listen, want my help, or want do her responsibilities has provided me with a few opportunities to be present to her. The other night I learn that she didn’t know how to read. At bed time we went to the library to pick out a book because her and a few other girls wanted to read stories before bed. When we got back to the room I was sitting with her and instead of asking me to read or for help she just started making up words to the book and looking at the pictures. I asked her a few times what the first and next words were and when she didn’t know any of them I started reading it to her. She then decided of course right then at bedtime that she wanted to learn to read. So we read the book together me reading each and every word and then waiting for her to repeat it. Only having read Spanish children’s books for the last month my pronunciation was nothing close to perfect but it was enough for her. She got very excited that she had read a book and wanted to read more another day. Tonight she didn’t want to do her homework but we decided she had to and made her finish before she could go to bed. This did not make her very happy and she spent much of the evening crying not because it was hard homework (coping a picture and words on a page) but rather because it was homework, her teacher assigned it to her (how mean of her haha), and we were making her complete it. After putting all of the other girls to bed I went into the room where she was working and after working pretty well for a while she was having another break down. I told her I would help her, pulled up a chair and asked her what the next word was.. She erased and rewrote many letters because she wanted everything perfect like always, got super excited and felt accomplished realizing she didn’t have very much left, started crying and got frustrated a couple times, but after telling her almost every letter she finally completed it, thanked me, packed her backpack, threw her tissues in the garbage, and went to bed.

Although most of these experiences were not easy for me or the little child I know that being present and letting them know that someone was there to support and help them made a difference. Getting made or frustrated only makes things worse, especially when it comes to children who have experienced a lot of negative feedback and interactions. What the often need is someone to just sit there and wait for them to be ready or walk them step by step through something that seems so very daunting to a child, like homework. Sometimes I am present and the girls don’t want to accept the love and help, but they know that even if they find it annoying I am always there. I have to be consistently patient, encouraging, humble, and loving so they know that in the inconsistencies and struggles in life there is someone who will be predicable. It is not easy and I am not perfect but God helps me every day to work to be this for these girls and most of all for Him. There is nothing more fulfilling and joy-filled then getting to offer this to the girls every day. In loving them and serving them and helping them I am in turn loving Him and serving Him and helping Him. In being present I can begin to fulfill the words of the prayer of Saint Francis: 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Please continue to the girls in your thoughts and prayers as they continue through this last trimester of school! 

Maria Auxiliadora de los Cristianos...Ruega Por Nosotros

San Juan Bosco...Ruega Por Nosotros 
and on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, San Francisco de Asis...Ruega Por Nosotros 

In Christ,


1 comment:

  1. O Michelle! You are doing such a great job!! I love your heart, your thoughts, and the wisdom Jesus gives you! I can not wait to work with you and learn so much! Love you!