Sister Rosa's Reflection
Updated: Nov 18, 2021
“Silver and gold I have not, but what I have I give to you.”
These words of St. Peter echoed through my mind throughout my days in Haiti. I felt as though I was experiencing them. At times it was as if I was speaking them myself, while at other times feeling as though they were being spoken to me. These words were silently said by the joyful children in our “winter” camp, the suffering families whom we were privileged to visit in their homes, and by the dozens of grateful little ones, adults, and grandparents waiting to be seen at the medical clinic.
The ability to silently, yet joyfully, communicate with the children via the use of signs, mixed with a bit of English and Haitian (and sometimes even Spanish!), was incredible to me. Recess during our children’s program was filled with this, all mixed in with the sound of laughter and Frisbees hitting the dirt. During our first recess, four girls ran up to me. With two of them taking me by the hand they pulled me over to where the rest of their friends were and proceeded to show me their game, a Haitian version of “patty cake”. Watching them intently, I began to pick up the pattern and soon was playing it with them. Every now and then, as the rhythm of the song and clapping became faster, one of us would make a mistake, causing all of us to burst into laughter.
Each child there was an absolute joy. They have nothing. Most of them do not go to school, many were not being taken care of by their parents, and all of them would not eat more than one meal a day. But they were not afraid to love. They would run up to me and give me what they had: a hand to help me down their steep, slippery hills (which they would effortlessly run up basically barefoot), a part to play in their many simple games or, as one little girl did to me, with a rag in hand, bend down to dust the dirt off my feet. It was as if they were beautifully saying: “Silver and gold I have not, I have very little, but what I have I give to you. I give you my joy, my simplicity, my loving smile; and through these, I give you Jesus.”
In the midst of this came the experience of feeling myself saying these same words in return. There were two sisters in our program: Wilda, a quiet little one who was about 9 years old, and Milad, her big sister, who had a big personality was 11 years old. They were both part of the initial group of girls to teach me their clapping games during the first recess. During our last recess, Wilda came over to me and taking my hand pulled me over to her sister. She was sitting against the wall and did not look like her joyful self. Instinctively, I placed the back of my hand on her forehead and sure enough, she felt incredibly hot. I ran to look for a translator, and after a few questions I found out that she had a metal splinter in the sole of her foot for weeks, which was now badly infected.
We immediately brought her over to the medical clinic to be seen. She had a 103°F fever and needed a full day of antibiotics before the nurses would attempt to remove the metal splinters. So we sat there, me and another sister, with the big and little sister pair, as the nurses began to soak her foot. Wilda sat next to her sister on a little concrete wall, quite content with a plate of food (which we provided during the days of camp) most of which was piled with her sister’s food as well. We sat opposite the two of them, playing catch as we distracted Milad from the pain.
The following day we found ourselves back at the clinic with them, this time as the nurses were gently and with great patience trying to remove the splinters. Milad was sitting on her little sister’s lap, leaving Wilda barely visible as she held on tightly to her sister. Milad, as can be imagined, was crying and moving around greatly. I was sitting next to them, also helping to hold Milad and comfort her, while silently praying for her and the nurses. Thanks be to God, the splinters were all removed and by the time we were leaving (only four days later) there was not even a bandage on her foot. The infection, which was actually life-threatening, was completely healed. Seeing the love between those two sisters touched me deeply. I pray that they may have also felt the words of St. Peter: “...All I have I give you. I give you Jesus. We have come here, and we care, because Jesus loves you so, so much. He wants you to know his love.”
I went to Haiti with the desire to bring Jesus’ love to a suffering nation. But there, I encountered him in each child, each person whom I met. I was the one who received Christ’s love through them.
Sr. Rosa Ines, CFR Novice