The Gift Bestowed

All this hurrying will
soon be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.    Rilke


A summer morning finds me sitting by an open window in Café
Don Diego, a small café near the plaza with the yellow and white La Iglesia de Merced. Homework (tarea) is spread across the small wooden
table in front of me. Secure in my upright chair, I am hunched over flashcards,
notebooks and my iPhone with its trusty Spanish-English translator and
dictionary. In the corner, the mounted TV plays 80’s and 90’s music videos in
English. Intermittently, a newscast in Spanish breaks the flashback rhythm.

As I study and sip my café
con leche
, a shadow comes within my peripheral vision. Outside the open
window stands a hunched over Guatemalan man, already small in stature, his skin
darkened by birth and sun. His dark blue pants and light blue shirt are worn
and slightly tattered. In a leathery hand he carries an angel crudely carved
out of blonde wood. He holds it up for me to admire and buy. I shake my head
and say, “No gracias.”  It is only my first of four weeks in this
country and I’m not yet ready to buy stuff.
He persists in his questioning. I persist in my “no”.

As he turns to walk away, I notice the bundle on his back—a
tattered tarp-like blanket– larger than his entire frame and obviously filled
with more of his carvings. His handiwork is his means of eating and surviving.
He walks on, bow-legged and bent over like a pilgrim whose steps are slow and
deliberate, face set against the fierce wind.             

And the questions swirl around me like the newly presented
Spanish verbs and nouns:  “What else does
he carry in his bundle? What hopes and dreams have dissolved into
disappointments and regrets?  What
anxieties does he struggle to keep wrapped up?  What weariness persists in his slow pace?”  Or am I merely projecting my own insecurities
upon his back while he roams the ancient city with his creative force to be
given as a gift?  A gift I refused.  A refusal I came to regret.

Days later, I searched for him. I walked the cobblestone
streets and uneven sidewalks of Antigua. I peered into cathedrals, scoured the
street corners, tiny alleyways and park benches, but never found him

What was it I was looking
for? What was it I needed?  A crudely
carved angel or crucifix?  Or perhaps a
simple benediction from the man’s gnarled, holy hands?

Holiness comes wrapped
in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of
angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb.

                                                                                    Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B





There is a hidden kind

Of humble goodness

I love in others


Only a aeon

Of refining fire

Could make it mine

But sometimes it’s as

I were already

                          Anne Porter, In
Another World

 Always Mercy,


via Always Mercy

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