IT ALL STARTED WITH GRAPES…
Little did my parents know what they were doing when they chose not to feed me grapes as a child. Now mind you, I was not too thrilled when we didn’t buy grapes. I quite enjoyed whenever I was at a friend’s house and they had grapes to eat. Not having grapes at home was one of my first introductions to a simple way of living solidarity. My parents had joined Cesar Chavez by responding to the simple plea: “Help the farm workers, don’t buy grapes.” As a 5-year-old I had no idea what a boycott was, or the importance of farm workers’ rights. I had never heard, the word “solidarity,” let alone known what it means. I must admit that even now, 30 years later, I’m not sure I fully grasp yet the meaning of solidaridad — a term overused in social justice circles. My journey to understanding many different ways to live solidarity is far from over. One thing is for sure:
I know that it is something that I yearn for from mis entranas — that place deep within our guts and hearts.
Growing up, my parents planted seeds of social justice. Missionaries around our dinner table, examples of radical hospitality, and encouragement that “to whom much is given much is expected.” This sprung from a deep faith in the gospel message that expands the conventional understandings of family to include all as members of God’s family. I was taught from a young age to live my faith Karl Barth style with the Bible in one hand newspaper in the other. They joke that one must watch how you raise your children because otherwise they might start wanting to go places like El Salvador, which indeed I did my junior year of college.
LEARNING LA REALIDAD FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE POOR
I decided I was tired of hearing everyone else’s stories about the gritty reality of our world…I wanted to be fully immersed with all of my senses. In El Salvador, my education wasn’t just at the UCA; rather my classroom was in a little pueblito in the mountains — La Javia. I didn’t go to fix anything or anyone in this community.
I went to listen exquisitely to another way of living, to accompany, to allow my heart to be broken.
One guide in La Javia was Hermana Cristina — Hija de Caridad — Daughter of Charity. There is no other word to describe Cristina than ZEAL incarnate. At this point I didn’t know anything about St. Vincent de Paul or St. Louise de Marillac. But Cristina taught me how to serve with a Vincentian heart. She taught me about working with, not for people, about listening to the needs in the community before taking action, about the small things of serving — attending to the physical AND spiritual needs, empowering women in the community, about enjoying life!
This was my first real taste of living the Vincentian Charism. The poor were no longer a problem to be solved. They are my friends. Mis hermanos y hermanas. My companions on this journey.
The rest of this beautiful reflection can be found on Medium.com