For many years I have been helping people in many ways, I have been the one extending my hand to provide food, counseling, interpretation , and moral support for many immigrants coming to the United States. Even when I was in Mexico, I used to travel to the indigenous villages in the mountains of Veracruz and San Luis Potosi to give a hand to different people. I have traveled to Spain to work in Madrid’s lost cities where I worked among the drug addicts. I traveled through out Morocco helping the Berbers, and learning from them. I have slept in a warehouse full of rats among the homeless in Atlanta, and helped distribute food in winter to the homeless in Nashville, TN. For almost seven years I organized Christmas baskets delivered to almost 300 families in the Upper Cumberland in Tennessee. I coordinated the start of free medical clinics for uninsured immigrants at Smithville and Cookeville, and they helped many who needed an extra hand. I have raised thousand of dollars to help people with their hospital , electric bills, rent and even for them to be able to buy some groceries. I have been able to get full houses furnished, and gave hundreds of winter jackets to the needy children of our community. I was always available 24/7 ready to respond to someone going to the hospital, the court house, or to a doctors appointment. I have helped a dozen of international students being able to get acquaintance with the life in the United States taking them to the bank, to get their drivers license, hundreds of trips to Wal-Mart (I am sorry to mention this name to the ones against this corporation), spending many hours looking for used cars, or traveled to Nashville, Saint Louis, Washington, Miami, or to the many state parks so they can experience the beauty of this country. I have organized dozens of home parties to welcome all these nations, and practiced hospitality.
In all these years I have been the one helping people, the one stretching my hand to touch the need of someone else; listening to them and trying to be the best helper I could be; but there was one single problem: yes I was helping, but I was not being compassionate, not either empathized with their own reality. Why? Because in my lifetime I had not experienced times of extreme neediness, and desperation. Henry Nouwen said, “Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.”
Recently I was talking to a new friend who bravely told me: “May be you have never really served God, you thought you were”. I really wondered about this last statement, specially now that I am the one being helped by others in this period of unemployment. I also think about that because for many years I served God hiding my true self to the rest of the world, and in a way I did what I did because I wanted others to see who I was not; may be I though I was serving, but in reality I was trying to silence my so guilty and shameless soul. Brennan Manning called this the “poser or wanna be”, he quotes: “There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are. There is the “you” that people see and then there is the “rest of you”. Take some time and craft a picture of the “rest of you.” This could be a drawing, in words, even a song. Just remember that the chances are good it will be full of paradox and contradictions. While the impostor draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life.”
I know now if I ever come back to help others it will be from the center of who I am as a man, and as a person who had received the goodness and generosity of others, but most of all, it will be from the center of a heart who has been healed from the lack of acceptance of its own identity, and for the ignorance to know that in loving me, He(the God of the Universe), made me lovable.
I would like to finish with a prayer by one of my favorite authors, Henry Nouwen:
“Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love, unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.”