Damian* and I work on his English together everyday. His nephew, Ignacio* (who is more like a little brother to Damian) always waits for us to be done so we can do more fun things together; like the two boys running back and forth across the yard while I time them, or making up our own make-believe town with wood blocks and dirt mounds. But today, in lieu of English lessons or play-time, we all went up with a group of kids to pray the rosary by the big cross on the hill.
Throughout the rosary, amidst all the seriousness of our prayers, Ignacio was completely unable to sit still. He ran between people praying, looking for someone to giggle with. He made motions across the way. He tried to point out grasshoppers and birds to the people trying to pray around him. He would not sit still. I did my best to ignore it, not to give his behavior any attention, but then a felt a little hand on my arm and he began whispering to me to look at the trees… Do I tell him this isn’t the time? Do I ignore him? Do I give him a stern look of disapproval? I decided to ignore him, making a mental note to have a talk with him after prayers. He tapped a little longer, then heaved a sigh of disappointment, and moved on to the next person. Before walking down, I decided to have a talk with him. I sat him on the ledge to make us eye-level and said:
“Hey buddy… we need to talk about something serious, ok?”
“When you pray for something, is it important?”
“Ok, and if it is important, doesn’t that mean you want other people to think it’s important, too? And even if they don’t think it’s important, they should respect that you think it’s important, right?”
“Ok, sweetheart, then you have to do the same for others! When other people are praying, it is coming from their heart! Their prayer is so important to them! And they’re giving you the honor of sharing what’s deep inside their heart, hoping that maybe you will pray for what they pray for, too! So it isn’t very nice or respectful to them to be talking while they pray, or giggling or playing or running around when they pray, right?”
He eyes left my gaze and he looked down…and nodded.
“There is a time to be serious, and a time to play, ok? …Now… *I tickle him* Don't be serious all the time, because hat's no fun either!"
He giggled and looked up at me as I said, “But there are times to be serious. And prayer, whether it’s you praying or someone else, is one of those times. You have to be respectful, ok?”
“Ok. You promise we’ll work on it?”
He smiled and nodded and reached over to hug me.
I walked down the hill with the boys when I suddenly felt overwhelmed (God moment) to ask Damian if there was anything he’d like for me to pray for. After a short, but very meaningful request on his part, I asked if he would rather pray separately tonight before we each went to sleep, or if he would like to pray together. After he asked to pray together, we noticed the other boys were still near. I quietly pulled Damian to the side and asked if he would be comfortable asking his nephews to join us in prayer or if he preferred to just pray with me.
“The more help, the better!” he responded. We asked them to join us, and then we all sat down and closed our eyes in prayer. Damian prayed first- sweet prayers of a 10 year old- even remembering to pray for a friend of mine who had recently had a baby that I had briefly mentioned during our time at the cross for the rosary. Holding back tears, I prayed next. When I was done, Damian began to start the Our Father for us to all pray together in closing.
“Wait! I need to pray for something!” I hear.
Oh my gosh. Ignacio! I hadn’t even realized, throughout mine and Damian’s prayers, Ignacio had stayed quiet and still, head down and eyes closed, listening to our prayers. And now, here we are, a boy who an hour earlier was more concerned with grasshoppers than the prayers of others- let alone his own prayers- was upset that he had been skipped and stopped us to make sure he could pray with us. Happily stunned, I nodded to him to begin. And what followed was the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. He thanked God for many things. And he prayed for many things, one of which being “for Ms. Amelia, that she knows I love her and that she is safe when she goes home. and for her friend with the baby. and for her grandmother because she’s old, and for her mom and dad. and her friends.”
He finished praying, and hand in hand we all prayed one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be all together and then raced through the rain to the office porch, giggling, to go play and practice English.
Needless to say, I came back to my room and cried for a… good little while. And I was overwhelmed with gratitude to God.
Thank you, God, for the opportunity to know them. Thank you God for the opportunity to pray with them- to see their needs and cares and to know their hearts in that way, through you. Thank you God for their trust in me, their openness. Thank you God for helping me teach Ignacio a lesson about prayer, and thank you God for allowing me the opportunity to see the fruits of that lesson immediately. Thank you God for all that THEY teach ME; all they’ve taught me.
But mostly, God, thank you for the opportunity to love them. and thank you, THANK YOU, for the honor of being loved BY them.
You are everywhere, truly IN everything and I will carry You in this experience with me everywhere I go for the rest of my life.
I was recently able to go back to Amigos during Christmas break (5.5 months later). On the Christmas trip, on my very last morning there, I sat down for breakfast with these same boys (and some others) before loading up on the van to leave. They were already seated by the time I got there and had already begun eating. I sat down, closed my eyes and did the sign of the cross, when I heard a gasp. I looked up to see this:
Ignacio, realizing he forgot and now silently praying before his meal.
I’m excited to see what else we can work on together when I go back this summer. Thank you God for lessons that last.
Amelia Sierra- Summer Volunteer 2015 & 2016