In an effort to determine the subject matter of this next post, I consulted my Funny Book. As you must be wondering what that is, I will expound further. A former roommate of mine had encouraged me to keep a book of funny happenings/quotes to reference later for material or even just a hearty belly laugh in time of need. As such I have kept a few noteworthy funny book entries in a journal with a picture of the chubbiest-cheeked baby wearing a cow costume on the front cover. I call it The Moo Cow Funny Book which I hope will later translate into some MOOlah, but I digress.
The following tale is true and the names have not been changed to protect anyone’s identity because frankly it’s not that kind of a story. These moments took place against the desert backdrop of Cuatro Cienegas, a city in the northern state of Coahuila, Mexico. The name of the city literally translates to “four marshes” and was aptly named by the first settlers due to the natural springs in that region which have yielded extensive areas of wetlands and lakes. I was there to participate in Mission work with Misiones de Caridad (Missions of Charity, not to be confused with Missionaries of Charity which was Mother Teresa’s order) for two consecutive Easters in 2005 and 2006. This experience I now wish to divulge stemmed from the latter year. The characters include the missionaries who joined me, hailing from the heart of Cajun Country in South Central Louisiana. The number of us were slight enough to fit in two 15-passenger vans yet large enough not to be ignored.
Filling nearly one van themselves was a Catholic family of the surname Richard, led by parents Donnie & Michelle. Among their clan was 6-year-old Murphy, a spirited young chap who already was cultivating a talent of impeccable comic delivery. I personally witnessed his comedic development when I saw him repeatedly giving an unassuming sleeping bag pile-drivers after being warned to stop. He must have felt the eyes of objecting adults further observing his wrestling prowess despite that warning, and stopped long enough to exasperatedly state, “I just can’t help myself!” Young Murphy certainly had a way of keeping us light-hearted amidst the work of our Mission.
A fellow single woman of faith, Diane was another missionary on our trip. Accompanied by her friend, Gustavo, they took the children one scorching afternoon to a nearby Rancho to distribute candy and shoes to those in need. Let’s face it, candy can be a vital life force one regrettably may need to forego during tough times; as such, I see great value in both ministries. I’m trying to remember what book and verse to reference, but I thought I once read, “Blessed are the sweet givers, for they shall inherit the fruits of the Oompa Loompas.” It escapes me now, but if someone can assist with that citation, I’ll send you a Wonka Bar…
At any rate, Diane and Gustavo had planned about a half an hour for this disbursement activity, but true to Mexican form it somehow ended up taking more along the lines of an hour and a half. Assuming that some of their little legs may be getting tired from the additional walking, Gustavo graciously offered to carry any of the children who may have felt weary by that point. After pondering that proposal in his little heart for a moment, Murphy’s sincere response came forth, “Yeah, you can carry me. Because if I could, I would carry you.”
Retelling that tale later in the day to all the missionaries, we all chuckled sufficiently. That element of childlike wit and simplicity, stating the obvious, was so endearing. Yet looking beyond that sweet response provides the opportunity for both psychological and spiritual significance to be attributed to it as well.
I wish to go back to the lecture by Jackie Beavers that I referenced in my last post wherein she had been discussing her book, Pour for More. She suggested that each of us either has known, currently do and/or will know someone – considering all that they are struggling with in their life – who feels like they may not be able to move forward. In psychoanalytical terms that is referred to as an impasse, or blocked road. Impasse has been suitably described as that which is both “difficult to discover and complicated to resolve” by Horacio Etchegoyen in The Fundamentals of Psychoanalytical Technique. As such, Jackie suggested that we may be called to be a bridge to that individual to assist them during their time of need. During my Franciscan University of Steubenville haydays, my Little Flower household sisters would label that as “standing in the gap”. Regardless of the terminology – the feelings, the experience, and the need for assistance all remain the same. People all need someone or something else to offer to carry them at some point in their journey. We simply cannot do it all on our own, despite our stubbornness in thinking or trying to accomplish it on our own terms.
For many people the impasse that they continue to discover, despite their vain strivings, eventually leads quite likely to either depression or despair or to some type of religious experience and/or affiliation. As I have been a cradle Catholic with the gift of Faith present in even my first memories, I would not count myself among those who have discovered their faith in a season of suffering. Rather I see myself sometimes crawling, sometimes stumbling, sometimes jogging, but always trying to press on along side those who have had their faith tested and hopefully strengthened during times of trials. I view it as an opportunity to rediscover my faith, as it likely is in need of growth, or an awakening. If we are not continually experiencing a conversion, we are either regressing or standing still and I personally do not have much patience with the contrary options.
To bring it back to the tale of Murphy, the Gustavo that I see in my own life offering to carry me when I am too weary is Jesus. The words from Matthew’s gospel written over two thousand years ago continue to provide me with hope and solace: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” My legs may feel weak along this journey from time to time, but thankfully I do not have to rely on my own strength in those times.
I’d like to wrap up here with a further expression of gratitude. Thank you to all the people along my path who have offered in their own special way to carry me for a time, in an effort to bridge me to places of growth, healing, and comfort. And to those who currently are cheering me on and helping me further progress in my journey, I say “gracias” as well. As I search for that next open window in this time of transition, I am humbled. To feel your words of encouragement, your prayers, your acts of kindness all lifting me up and coercing me to continue to carry on – it is a true gift, YOU are a true gift! May we continue to be sources of encouragement to one another along the way.