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Posted about 1 year ago
As nurses, we all can remember at least one “Mother Teresa moment” sometime in our nursing practice. This happened to me years ago in Juarez, Mexico when I went to Texas for as one of the volunteer nurses. An outreach team from El Paso was planning to transport and distribute food to the poor in Mexico. I had the privilege of joining them.
It was the middle of the night when I crossed through Mexican customs from El Paso into Juarez, harboring our precious cargo: food. There were butchered chickens and huge rounds of homemade goat cheese on board with us. The angels protected us as we prayed to avoid an inspection. If inclined, the inspectors could take the food and send us back. It was an uneventful passage. We thanked God for His protection. When we arrived at a huge slum area called “The Dump”, the cold, pre-dawn mesa air penetrated our bodies. We prepared for the day. People were emerging from the darkness everywhere to line up in the food distribution line where the outreach team members were bracing themselves in the cold wind for a long day of scooping.Yes, scooping - one portion of dried beans after another, all day long.
The food lines were already overwhelming, even before dawn. They were filled with a variegated, colorful mosaic of people: men, women, children, and elderly. The diversity of color was not intentional. You see, these folks were wearing all they had, in layers and combinations to protect their skin from the morning cold. There were no fashion statements or any sense of style in their vestments - only pure, practical function.
I was embarrassed to see a grown man wearing a full length set of pink, “footie” pajamas that I had only ever seen on toddlers at cozy bedtimes after a warm bath. I thought to myself, “How absolutely humiliating. Could this man possibly feel any dignity whatsoever?" I hoped inside myself that he knew how valuable he really was. The line stretched hundreds of yards before him. He waited in his humility. The sun finally poked over the distant horizon with an array of pinks and oranges that only the angels could describe. The volunteers began to distribute scoops of dried beans to each of their guests in line. I was assigned to the women’s clinic to help with patients there, and distribute the cheese to the pregnant and nursing mothers.
Hours of scooping had already passed as the bitter morning cold was replaced by the scorching heat. No one in the endless line shed their clothing, even in the parching heat, because they could not risk losing them. The man in the pink pajamas finally reached the beginning of the line by mid-afternoon. He approached the large sack as a volunteer poured a full scoop of dried beans into a cloth he held out. He disappeared into the crowd, taking his precious cargo along. Where he went from there, we will never know.
"The poor are God’s gift; they are our love. Christ will not ask how much we did, but how much love we put into what we did. "
- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
The volunteer nurses among with other outreach members left that tiresome day with a lot more than they had arrived with. They had the privilege of lovingly serving God in every person they had aided. Most Americans believe that treasure lies on our American side of the border. If only more people knew what Mother Teresa teaches us: that True Treasure is found in serving in the poorest of the poor, with love.