Sometimes your fire can be rekindled instantly. Your inner spark ignited. For me, it happened recently by a most unlikely source. A 12-year-old Girl Scout.
And it’s been illuminated since!
It started over two weeks ago when we received news that our former hospitality site at the Loretto Nazareth Living Center was reopening! The new owners of the building had decided to give Annunciation House use of their unused wing again as a temporary shelter for the migrants and refugees processed by ICE.
Its two long hallways, dozens of hospital-type rooms with individual bathrooms, large kitchen and dining area meant we could receive more “guests.” Employ more volunteers. Offer better care.
We were “back in business.”
Just entering the familiar space that morning made me happy. Remembering the special memories, the many graced encounters we’d experienced during the previous 2 ½ years we’d occupied this place…it’s hard to explain.
But there was lots to do. The place had been closed for over a year. All our supplies, donations, and volunteers had moved on. It meant everything would have to be replenished.
Then the El Paso Girl Scouts, Troop #883, showed up.
I had been told they’d be bringing donations and that Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, was coming to personally thank them. I just didn’t know the magnitude of their efforts until, assisted by somebody’s mom, the girls carried in armload after armload of their collections.
Soon nearly our entire office floor was awash in a sea of colorful tote bags. Bright yellows, blues, purples, greens, oranges, whites, and reds brimming with snacks and toiletries stuffed in individual Ziploc baggies.
“We have more in my garage when you’re ready for them,” the mom said.
My curiosity won out.
“Whose idea was this?” I asked. “How’d you get all these donations?”
That’s when Natalie spoke up.
She said she’d attended the protest in Tornillo when the news first came out that children separated from their parents would be housed in a tent there. That’s where she learned about Annunciation House and decided to help with supplies for the traveling families. She posted something on her Facebook page and soon financial donations poured in. Not only nationwide but from people as far as away as the UK and Australia.
Natalie said she was “heartened” by the response.
So was I.
Honestly, I had been feeling weary from all that’s been happening at our border. And elsewhere in the country. All the cruelty, the lack of decency and civility to one another, the suffering we’re causing.
I have to admit that I’d been struggling not to let the state of my own mind and heart be affected by what was happening around me.
And then Natalie and Girl Scout Troop #883 reminded me of something.
The divine spark within. It’s there in all of us.
In some cases, it’s covered over by lots of layers. Layers of hurt and pain and fear. We’re seeing evidence of that in many ways these days.
But I want to tell you that it’s alive and well in El Paso. I witness it every time I step over the threshold at Nazareth.
This week we began receiving some of the reunified families. And if this week is any indication, it’s going to be crazy, chaotic, exhausting.
“Such joy!” is how Lisa, a friend and volunteer, expressed her feelings at witnessing these families back together.
Now that Annunciation House has been “in the news” as one of four places in the country to which ICE will deliver the thousands of parents and children they are reuniting, volunteers are coming out of the woodwork.
This week Natalie’s mom came to Nazareth with other moms to make breakfast for our families. Calling themselves “the angry mothers group,” they donned tee shirts that expressed their support of the families. Those moms who didn’t know Spanish smiled a lot at our guests. They made our families feel like they were human beings. And let them know that somebody – although a “stranger” – cared.
People from all walks of life, all faith denominations, all skin colors and cultures – they are all showing up at our door wanting to help.
And they are on fire too!
Not only because they want to do something positive in the face of such abominable treatment to our fellow human beings, but because they too are recognizing what I and my fellow volunteers have been recognizing in the faces of these migrants and refugees since day 1.
The face of Christ. The divine spark.
And that spark is igniting their own spark.
Dorothy Day says:
“Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up….If we love each other enough, we are going to light the fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.”
Maybe your spark will be ignited too. Wherever you are.
Maybe we all will someday recognize that this divine spark, this love has been there all along. Waiting for us to wake up. To remove our blindness. To catch on fire with the awareness of who we truly are.
Every single one of us.