Advent is often touted as the Season of Waiting, but sometimes we forget exactly what waiting means because most of us live in an instant society. Many get what they want when they want, and truly have a minimal experience of waiting for anything.
However, I was reminded of just this reality on Sunday night, when I got a communication from our dear Sister Karla in Nicaragua. Karla is the Serviam Sister who has suffered much due to major health issues and extreme poverty. Even though we know that she continues to suffer terribly due to her health issues, she also continues to get up each morning and serve the poor with an extraordinary amount of grace and peace. These Sisters continue to live in want and need all the time and do it with grace and joy as they serve the poorest of the poor.
Sometimes, we even forget how much in need they still live each day, along with the thousands of others we serve through the Mission of Hope and other wonderful organizations.
But here is what she shared with me Sunday night: “Something happened today that made me know God is alive. Other Sisters were asking me for soap to take a shower and they thought I might have a little piece left. I did not have any soap, and, as we checked with the other Sisters here, no one had soap. And we did not have any money to buy soap. Then, your Canadian team (our Mission of Hope nursing team from Canada) arrived, bringing the medical items I was in great need of. And, along with the medicines, they brought two boxes of soap. I turned to the Sisters and said, ‘See, what wonderful gifts we just received! God knows we are here.'”
I pressed her for more information, and it turns out that they have not had soap for months, nor shampoo, toothpaste or deodorant: all the basics we seem to always have on hand or can obtain so quickly. I walk down the toothpaste aisle in stores and am amazed, as I am when I walk down the cookie aisle or just about any aisle.
Even in their great want, she did not reach out and ask me for anything, but sent the ‘thank you’ when they received the soap. I felt guilty and blessed, all in the same moment. I asked her why she didn’t let me know sooner and she told me that they know there must be many demands on our services and supplies and didn’t want to ask.
By the way, the soap was provided by one of our non profit partners through the Stop Hunger Now Food container that the Mission received via a grant. Yes, the gift may have appeared less significant than the food on the same container, but yet, certainly it has value and importance for those receiving it. The Gospel of Matthew says, “What you receive as gift, give as gift.” That is what the Mission of Hope is all about, what Advent is all about, what life is all about.
So, the purpose of this news is two-fold. First, upon receiving this note, the Dominican Sisters of Hope will make donations to purchase the very basic necessities for these Sisters and so many others who live a life of waiting. The second reason to send this email is to invite each of us to express our gratitude and to reflect on why “waiting” is good for us, especially we who live in an instant world of getting what is wanted, not necessarily what is needed. I invite you to think about the following from Westernseminary.edu:
1. “Waiting reminds us that we are not the Center of the universe.”
2. “Waiting reminds us that God is in control.”
3. “Waiting reminds us that life is a gift.”
4. “Waiting reminds us that the present matters.”
5. “Waiting reminds us that the future is bigger than we think.”
And with that, I will go on with my day and I hope that your day has a touch of “waiting” in it, not a lot, but just enough to remind us of the gift of time and of waiting. As Marc Cortez writes in the article cited above:
“All the waiting helps us think differently about both the present and the future: valuing the present as a gift, cherishing the future as our ultimate hope.”