#20years20lessons Lesson #8 ~ Amy Escoto

Lessons from our Children

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Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (Mt 8:12)

Even way down south in Honduras the days are getting shorter, reminding us of our need for the true light of the world.  We don’t have our usual 12 hours of light right now, and with more darkness comes a chill- low temps in the 60's can be tough on folks who are used to triple digits most of the year!

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I straddle two worlds.  I have lived in Honduras for over 13 years (and at Amigos de Jesús for more than 7) but still am deeply connected to my home country of the United States.  In both my beloved countries we are surrounded by dark news daily.  When I read what is going on across the world I feel heavy, burdened, frustrated and powerless.

The children of Amigos de Jesús come from difficult places. Darkness.  Fear.  Poverty.  Hate.  Discrimination.  Physical, sexual, emotional and structural violence.  Brokenness.  Distrust.  Most of their lives have been spent without power, without a voice.  Our children come from a place where there is no hope.

As a person of hope and a person of God, I refuse to give into that darkness, but it is so difficult to know how to be light for the world. 

So I look to the children.

As anyone who has met our children can attest, the boys and girls of Amigos de Jesús do not reflect the darkness of their pasts.  Instead people who meet our children describe them as happy.  Bright.  Loving.  Kind.  Patient.  Welcoming.  Funny.  Strong.  Intelligent.  Healthy.  Gifted.  Forgiving.  Hopeful.

“Follow the cross and you will find hope.”  This is the motto of Amigos de Jesús, and we learn about transformation and hope from our children every single day.

How do our children become so radically transformed?  How can they be bearers of light after being submerged in great darkness?   What can we do to live this transformation in such hurting times?  How can we follow their example and let our lights shine in such darkness?

Our children can teach us; we must listen closely and learn from the lessons they share:

1. They give thanks.

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Our children’s prayers rarely consist of asking God for anything.  Their ever-repeating refrain is “thank you Lord.”  They are not begging God to fix, to change, to give give give.  They rest in God’s love and live in gratitude for such a gift.

2. They put the needs of others ahead of their own.

Each year on Christmas Day, the 'jovenes' organize a community service project where they give food to families in the area to ensure that each family enjoys a Christmas dinner. 

Each year on Christmas Day, the 'jovenes' organize a community service project where they give food to families in the area to ensure that each family enjoys a Christmas dinner. 

At mass recently, the church was packed and we barely fit in the pews; many of the congregation was standing or watching from the door.  Nine-year-old William* immediately stood and gave up his spot to an elderly man who was badly hunched over and walks with a cane.

Juan*, a lively first grader with a large appetite, noticed that 4-year-old Aaron* lost his snack at recess.  Juan gave his whole snack to Aaron and ran off to play without thinking twice.  When asked if he was hungry he said, “Yes, but I can wait until lunch.  Aaron can’t wait.”

In the morning, many of our teens and tweens are quick to get ready for school so they can then help the 'madrinas' and 'padrinos' with the younger children.  They do not whine about wanting to sleep in or turn their backs on the littlest 'amigos.'  They see what needs to be done and do it without being asked.

Not one of our children would do as the Levite or the priest did and turn away from someone suffering or in pain.  Each of our children is a true Samaritan.  There are no “others” for our children.

3. They belong to each other. 

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Saint (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta once shared an insight she learned from her life with the poor.  “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  Our children know this, and they teach us this.  To our children there is no “other” that is too “other” to belong to them.

Not too long ago one of our girls, Graciela*, learned that the mother who abandoned her when she was a toddler had died.  Graciela had long since forgiven her mother while holding onto hope that her mother would want a relationship with her someday; this hope was dashed with the passing of her mother.  Graciela’s grief was raw, and she wept completely and openly alongside her siblings.  I held them in silence and gave witness to their pain just a few hundred yards from where the other children laughed and played.  At one point I asked if they wanted to go somewhere more private to be alone in their pain and tears.  Graciela responded, “No 'madrina,' the other kids know what this is like.  I want to be near them.  They help me to remember that it could be worse and that we are going to be okay.” 

4. They trust.

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Trust is difficult for anyone, but it seems it should be impossible for our children.  How do they learn to give love when it’s never been given to them?  To receive love when they’ve never known what it feels like?  And yet they come to us broken, empty and alone and somehow within days or weeks or months are able to give and receive love, to laugh and to begin to trust.

When Sara* came to us from a case of extreme neglect and abandonment, Suyapa- one of our leaders here at Amigos- spent the first night picking hundreds of lice from her hair.  She then bathed her, and found a beautiful dress for her to wear on her first night at Amigos de Jesus.  Sara* looked at Suyapa and asked, “Do you love me?  Why did my family never do this for me?”  She then cuddled up to Suyapa and fell asleep in her arms, feeling loved and protected for the first time.

As advent draws near we are called to wait and hope for the light that is Jesus Christ.  When my despair at the situation in the world around us is greatest, I can forget there is always light.  I am so fortunate that I am surrounded by over 120 bearers of light, over 120 wise teachers who show me the way.

He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." 

(Mt 18:2-5)

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- Amy Escoto, Co-Director of Operations