So Much Preference, Such A Grace
Responding to the request of a friend, a beautiful charitable work is born.
At the beginning of 2019 I received a phone call from my Venezuelan friend, Alejandro. He asked me if I could help support the Venezuelan CL community by organizing the sending of hygiene products there, given their needs in light of the difficult political and economic situation they face.
I immediately said “Yes, I will make it happen.” To say yes is a sign that the fraternity among us in the Movement is real. It doesn’t have boundaries. To say yes comes with a great deal of energy: it’s a call.
I decided to contact some friends who also knew Alejandro and started working with them to organize something. I then called Fr. Medina to let him know what was going on and he proposed that I send an invitation to participate to all the people of the Movement in the US. Tim, Maria Teresa, and I put together a project and the invitation was sent.
The response was overwhelming. Literally, hundreds of people were interested in participating in the initiative: families, school of community groups, fraternity groups, and individuals. Now we had to figure out how to do it which was not easy. We had to collect a large amount of products, store them, organize them in boxes, send them, and find a way to distribute them to our friends in different parts of Venezuela. The whole process had to be done in a legal way, and we had to find the best route for the products to get to the houses of our friends without getting robbed along the way.
In April 2019, we started the process for the first shipment. The products arrived in Venezuela a month later and they were distributed to our friends there. On that occasion, Maria from Venezuela wrote:
“We have to deal with daily life challenges, including getting food, medicine and basic hygiene products. Most of the time we cannot find some essential hygiene products and when we do find them, their quality is poor and they are extremely expensive. I am thankful to our friends in the US for sending us these products, which are also of a very good quality. This surprises us and fills us with joy! Being "filled with joy" goes beyond having received these products. It is the gesture which generates our profound joy. We are filled by the awareness that it is He who moves it all, plans it all, and shows us His face through this. It is a sign of the preference He has for me.”
This message from Maria introduced an aspect of this initiative that I had not thought about until then: one thing is to be grateful for receiving a much needed help, another thing is to have the poverty of spirit to acknowledge the sign of preference from Him that comes with it.
Since that April, we have been able to keep sending hygiene products faithfully every two months or so. The distribution in Venezuela has been successful, our friends receive all the products and they also share them with family members and neighbors.
Every time that the products arrive at their final destination we receive beautiful pictures and messages from our friends there. These messages witness the same awareness of His preference that Maria has. They are always joyful messages, filled with gratitude and surprise. They are always a gift to us because they provoke us to go back to that same awareness. One particular message from a woman from Caracas was extremely striking to me:
“This is priceless. It moves and shocks me – so much preference, such a grace. That people I do not know take their time to buy a product and then I receive it without even seeing the face of that person!? How is it that until now I’ve felt this way: that the only thing that moved me was to be able to do something? That I thought: it’s so great that we’re friends, when they will need me I will be the one helping them! What a huge selfishness! Such blindness! Such pain!”
God’s preference for me really is gratuitous. It precedes me and it reaches me unexpectedly. My yes is not a condition for this gift. Instead, my yes is to accept it.
In April 2021, we had a Zoom meeting with a bunch of friends from the US and a group of friends from Venezuela. It was a joyful event during which we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little more and to see each other's faces. Rayne from El Tocuyo was also there. She was in lockdown because of Covid and to find a decent internet connection in her house was really hard, but she really wanted to be there, so she decided to go on the top of her house onto the roof, and from there she was able to attend to part of the event and to say hi to all of us.
We have been faithful to this initiative for almost 3 years now. Every time that we start the process for a new shipment, we are surprised to receive so many emails from friends all over the country who give us their availability to contribute. We are always surprised to receive the availability of the three families in Miami who receive the products and organize them in boxes. There is always a leap of the heart when Eddie in Miami sends us the following message: “Boxes delivered to the courier.”
We don’t know for how long we will be able to do this. We keep this initiative free from any organizational structure and every time each one of us is called to freely decide whether or not to get involved.
There is an unresolved part in all of this, which is the struggle of the Venezuelan people. There is this apparent contradiction: the certainty of an infinite good in us, and at the same time the evidence of the ugliness of poverty and pain. This is what I have received from our Venezuelan friends in this experience: they have been witnessing to me that this ‘contradiction’ is precisely the place where the Lord enters in relationship with us.
Enrico, Gainesville, FL