“Your heart will guide you,” friends at the border told me before I left El Paso as I shared that I was uncertain of the way forward. I knew they were right. My heart is what got me there in the first place.
As I’ve listened, I’ve been feeling pulled to work with the Hispanic children. All those disturbing stories of the children from Central America journeying through Mexico to cross the border have stayed in my heart. I’ve since applied for a longer term position of service in Texas working with women and children. And I’ve continued to ask Spirit for guidance as to where and how to use what I’ve learned.
The other day I received an appeal from Catholic Volunteer Network to help those “on the fringes of society.” When I opened the envelope, the beautiful, smiling face of an Hispanic child looked up at me, the words “Celebrate New Life” posted below. That picture, along with a box of Cheez-it crackers, turned into a powerful metaphor for me. Hang in, and I’ll explain.
Before I left El Paso, I wrote this little fable. It was as much to reassure the young child inside of me who had been so anxious and doubtful about venturing into the unknown as it was to remind me of the powerful things that can happen when one listens to one’s heart. I read this to Liz, my wise friend and spiritual director:
“Once upon a time we were afraid. We thought we had lost our way and we wandered into the Texas desert, not bringing very much with us and uncertain of what we would encounter. We were doubtful and insecure for a while, thought we had to put up a wall to protect ourselves, but this loving Presence kept showing up, dropping crumbs of delectable nourishment along the way: gifts of encouragement and wisdom from unexpected visitors, vivid dreams and insights, love painted on a heart-shaped stone and woven into a Mexican prayer shawl, lyrics to songs presented especially to us, warmth and love from strangers who took us into their hearts. Little by little we began to recognize Love’s Presence, until the journey culminated in one glorious expression of love and affirmation that left no doubt that all along the journey we have been held and guided and safe and treasured.”
Liz is smiling as she listens. Then she poses this great question. “What if,” she asks, her voice trailing off into introspection. “What if all we are to do is drop these delectable crumbs of God’s love?”
I pause, struck by what she has just asked. Yeah. This is it, isn’t it? It’s not about how much we succeed or fail. It’s not about trying to figure out the next step. It’s realizing that there really is nothing more we need do than simply drop these crumbs of love along the way.
But only two days later before I begin my meditation, I again pray for guidance to be shown how to use my gifts and what I have learned. Because something in me wants to see—needs to see—the next step. Living with uncertainty can be so challenging.
Somewhere in the middle of my meditation this vision drops in of Cheez-it cracker crumbs falling to the ground. Liz’s words about “crumbs of God’s love” surface. So does a deeper awareness. My son Davis loves Cheez-it crackers. Has since he was a little kid. I still buy them when he comes home from college. A small expression of my desire for him to feel loved.
It’s easy for me to connect the dots here. The association of the crackers with my child and my love for him, and my love for the children who are in pain. Drop crumbs of love for the children. That’s what I am to do.
A friend recently recommended I read Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, by Gregory Boyle. Boyle is a Jesuit priest who has been serving for more than two decades in one of the poorest sections of Los Angeles. He started a gang-intervention program called Homeboy Industries, and in this book he shares beautifully inspiring stories of what the presence of unconditional love can do in the midst of such poverty and challenging lives.
“In the end,” Fr. Boyle writes, “I am helpless to explain why anyone would accompany those on the margins were it not for some anchored belief that the Ground of all Being thought this was a good idea.”
Living on the margins. Dropping crumbs of love. Serving the Ground of all Being. Somehow they are interchangeable. And one’s life is forever enriched by the experience.