Emptying Yourself Means Being Open to Being Loved
After months of being "zoomed out," Monica discovers precious opportunities with her friends in Boston.
Father Carrón’s question “What saves us from nothingness?” has been challenging and accompanying me in these past six months amidst the COVID pandemic. It is easy for me to see the nothingness conquering my days: the lockdown, wearing a mask, social distancing, the inability to do what I want, not being able to see friends as in the past, teaching remotely, school closings, and the list can go on and on. Back in May I was telling Father José how I felt disappointed and burned out--or better “zoomed” out--by remote teaching and how I felt sad watching my children feel so disappointed by school. Lucia is only eight and Joseph six, but they were both so fed up with distance learning.
During that conversation, José told me about the work he had been doing with the children from his Fraternity group on Hermann the Cripple. It sounded so fascinating that I asked Father Luca and Christianne, two dear friends from our Boston Communion and Liberation community, to help me propose a similar work to our kids in the community. And so we started in July to meet once a week in our backyard to learn about Hermann the Cripple and how he was defined by his passion for all of reality and not by his deformities and difficulties.
We invited an art teacher who fascinated the kids by drawing with the vanishing point and teaching them to do the same. Then Ewa, a poetess in our CL community, taught riddles, and two hours flew by: the kids didn’t want to stop sharing, guessing, and writing riddles. Andre, a high school science teacher, built an astrolabe with the kids. And finally Miriam, a professional pianist, taught the kids all about hymns, and our boys and girls grouped together to compose their own hymns.
It was a beautiful moment in which I re-discovered in myself and in my kids the thirst to learn and know more. It also educated me to the richness that Christianity brings to my life and to the people in our CL community.
A second big miracle during COVID came about after Carolina shared her need to distribute food to families of her school in Roxbury in our monthly assembly. We started a weekly charitable work in which we drove to pick up food from the YMCA and Carolina would send us to distribute it to ten different families in East Boston. I’ll never forget my four-year-old Teresa's eyes when she heard one of the moms receiving a food delivery remember her and thank her by name. I discovered that we weren’t just dropping food off on the stoop; sometimes there was an opportunity to meet another human being and connect even through our masks. This weekly trip also became a moment in which our children would ask us “Why are we bringing food to these children? Can’t they just go to the store? This is not fair.” It was an opportunity for my husband and I to explain to them the difficulties caused by the pandemic. We didn't have to spare our children the drama that life brings, especially in these days of COVID.
Lastly, one morning in October I was vacuuming in between my Zoom classes (I’m teaching remotely at my high school in Medford), when I found myself thinking about these facts and how I felt saved from the nothingness of my daily life. I keep desiring more for my kids--what is next? How can we continue the work we did this summer with Hermann the Cripple? The next day--God is quick sometimes!--Carolina reached out saying that she needed help to prepare school supplies for her 421 students who are unable to go to school right now. Boston is in a red zone and learning in school buildings is almost non-existent. I asked a few close friends if they wanted to join me with their kids, and off we went. We helped Carolina on Columbus Day, our day off, and the kids set up assembly lines and helped prepare bags with school supplies for the children who frequent Carolina’s K-8 School.
As the older kids helped under the guidance of Carolina and a few adult friends, some other moms took care of the younger kids (the under-four-year-olds who would create more of a mess than help!). I was struck that even in this situation a little creativity and sacrifice helped make the day possible. Watching the older children look so joyful and happy made me begin to understand what the philosopher, anthropologist, and Spanish writer Mikel Azurmendi witnessed to us at the Beginning Day when talking about doing charitable work with the people from Bocatas to Canada Real. “We are here to empty ourselves of ourselves. . . . You are there to receive something. . . . Emptying yourself means being open to being loved.” Driving home that afternoon I was filled with gladness, aware that I was the one who received so much on this day off.
These months of COVID have been challenging, but without a doubt they have been such a precious opportunity to discover a satisfaction and beauty that springs from belonging to Christ and to the people He puts on this journey with me. This is what saves me from the nothingness.
Monica, Boston, Massachusetts