These are emotions that often go together – sometimes within moments of each other.
Today started out sad because this was the last day of my delegation. I was to take them to the airport (they were a small group so we all fit – sort of – in the house pick up truck). We left about 8:30 and with minimal issues, and a very quiet ride, we made it by 10:45 for their 1:00 p.m. flight.
Well – we did have one ‘issue’ – I was pulled over by 3 policemen at a regular police check point. These are common and I get stopped often. I just show them the truck’s registration and my Iowa license, answer a few questions about where I’m going and where I’ve come from … depends how ‘chatty’ the policeman is. So I immediately hand him the truck registration and turn to my purse to get my license. It isn’t where it normally is between the two front seats. I just figured it had fallen to the back. I asked the two ladies back there to look for it on the floor.
The policeman asked for my license and I told him we were looking for my bag. It wasn’t there! Uh oh. I told him we couldn’t find my purse – and if I could step out of the truck I could move the front seat and look better. He said that was fine. So I got out, moved the seat a little panicked because it still was not to be found … and I had to explain to the man that yes I DO have a license but I think I left the purse on the table back at the house. Then the questions started: where are you coming from, where are you going? Who are they? Are you leaving too? When are you going back to Berlin? What are you doing here (in general)? What are in the suitcases, etc? They were not ‘threatening’ just stern looking. But as we talked they began to smile a bit. Mostly after I told them there was basically just dirty clothes in the suitcases. I really was not ‘scared’ per se. I was hopeful they would be forgiving and in the end they were. I told them it was a shame I had left my bag on the table because my lunch was in there, too. A little gentle humor and ‘self-chastisement’ normally goes a long way. In the end they let us go on our merry way. But they asked if 2 of them could get a ride somewhere. I even joked with them: “I’m certainly not going to say no!” but I said it with a big smile and an immediate ‘hop on.’ I’m pretty sure the police here are not accustomed to people joking. I think most people who get pulled over are fearful - whether they need to be or not. Or they see these check points as a form of harassment. There is also the not too distant history of police checkpoints where they would just as soon shoot you as look at you. Don’t worry – it isn’t like that anymore! And I don’t always joke with the policemen – I try to read their expressions. I am always polite and respectful.
So we finally got to the airport and said our goodbyes. They were leaving a warm – and by this time – hot climate and on their way to below zero with snow. Poor things.
I stopped at the gas station near the airport on the way home for a potty break and a cup of coffee and a snack. I was a bit sleepy (which is normal after a delegation). I made it back to Berlin by 1:30.
The Team was waiting for me. We had a 2:30 ‘appointment’ in Alejandria. There was a Directiva meeting in progress and we had a surprise for them. The team bought two small piñatas – one for the children and one for the adults and had made 43 little bags (one per family) of cookies and candy for the families to have for Christmas. They wanted to thank their community. It was a fun time. We were only there for about an hour and a half but it was filled with laughter and happiness. It takes very little to bring a moment of joy.
We drove back to Berlin and immediately walked up to the church for mass. Today was the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe: the day that Don Diego saw the vision in Mexico. We were a little late for mass but not by much. Cecilia called Otilia who had said she would be down for that. She had saved us a seat. Cesar, her son, came to get us. It was standing room only. This is a VERY special mass in that all the children dress up in peasant or indigenous clothing. It is VERY cute. Even some of the older people dress up. It is very colorful and festive. The mass lasted till about 5 p.m. – with me trying not to nod off during the homily of our guest priest.
Immediately afterwards was the procession. There was the trailer with the statue of Our Lady and Diego on his knees looking up at her and lots of little children sitting with them for the ride. It was more blocks than normal that we walked. We walked for about two hours. It is slow going, there was some singing but mostly just quiet talk or silence. I saw and got hugs from several of my children friends and I enjoyed just being out in the evening. But I did reach of point where I just wanted to go to sleep. Then I saw something that woke me up and brought me joy. I spotted Father Cándido in the midst of the people. HE was walking the procession!
That was my gratitude moment. And my joy. Last year he was basically bed ridden with extreme arthritis in his legs and back. Little by little they have found and regulated a pain medicine that has enabled him to serve mass and get around a bit better. But he still doesn’t climb the altar all the way to the top – he has a chair brought down for him still. But he was walking this procession!!! I sidled up to him and told him what a joy it was for me to see him walking. And he said this: “It is for gratitude I’m walking tonight.”
What a joy.