I Just Remembered

I just remembered Sunday afternoon in Guatemala,

muffled songs from a local congregation drift over the dusty mountain streets;

we can hear the praises from where we sit in the house,

breaking bits off of pan dulce while the dogs shuffle around our feet,

the little cat arches her back, stretching lazily on the bench next to me.

I just remembered two houses half-made, their cinderblock walls awaited corrugated roofing.

I remembered hardware shops closed, a morning without building,

a morning without shoulders bent under the hot sun,

hands in too-big gloves swinging dull machetes,

over and over against those long strips of wood.

But a morning with no building is not a morning without work,

and I just remembered leaving that house on the hill with four teenage girls,

setting out along the narrow cobblestone streets;

a list of names in our hand, vague directions based on minute details running through our heads.

We’re to visit the widows.

And I just remembered those five houses, those five women.

Some are older, their dark skin softened into deep wrinkles that spiral and wind across their thoughtful faces.

Some are younger, looking up at us even as they work, their nimble hands roving over tasks they’ve learned by heart.

One cannot speak, and we stand in her garden,communicating in an odd shuffle of four languages: English, Spanish, Cakchiquel, and exaggerated motions, smiles, and kind nods.

I’m the oldest in our little group of visitors, but I’m not really the one in charge.

We’re all a team, all a body, and we bring different things to this Sunday morning mission of compassion.

At each house, we greet, swapping handshakes and embraces.

We spend time with the women; standing, sitting, together in our group and together with them.

Talk about families and work and worries and children.

We hear them.

And then, always then, we ask for their needs, ask for their burdens,

and those we carry to the Lord.

I pray, often. Head bowed, hand on shoulder, arm, hand of the one besides me.

We all bow and it’s Spanish then,

and then goodbyes, handshakes, hugs once more.

And I just remembered the last house we visited,

a home restaurant behind the central park.

Standing in the dim, smoke-filled kitchen,

the youngest one with us,

a girl 12 years old and already a missionary, a servant, to all around her,

she nods to me, her cheeks still child-round;

I’ll pray, she says.

And we bow and she does and I listen to the words

and I listen to the heart behind them

and I just remembered how much I loved that no work Sunday afternoon.



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jonstolpe
    Dec 02, 2014 @ 10:29:38

    Great thoughts and reminders. It was shortly after this memory that our family joined the adventure in Xenacoj. We were marked by our experience once again.


  2. Kathy Bogacz
    Dec 02, 2014 @ 12:20:41

    Natalia – you are a wordsmith. Your words transported me right back to Xenacoj and all the sights and smells and tastes… thank you!


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