Alternative Spring Break with Catholic Campus Ministry at George Mason couldn’t have been a more grace-filled and wicked awesome week. From March 10 to March 17 I had the exciting and wonderful opportunity to serve the children of the Hogar San Francisco de Asis (St. Francis of Assisi Home) in Chaclacayo, Peru. The Hogar serve kids of all ages, from week-old babies to adults.
They give assistance to the kids by giving them three square meals a day, sending them to school, and most importantly giving them treatment for their various illnesses. Kids are sent to the Hogar by their parents who cannot afford to give them medical treatment or buy them medicine. All of these services are free for the parents and their kids, and once the kids are back to full health they return to their families. The most common types of illnesses are cerebral palsy, chronic diarrhea, malnutrition, tuberculosis and chronic respiratory diseases.
Along with 12 other students from Mason, I had the privilege of helping the many children at the Hogar with their daily activities. A few of the tasks we helped them with included playing soccer, taking them to the park, helping them with their homework, or assisting them with their meals. One kid in particular, Bryan, stands out vividly in my memory.
Bryan is nine-years-old and suffers from cerebral palsy, which limits him from having full muscular control of his legs. The week before we arrived at the Hogar he had undergone surgery to fix the problem. Anchored into this legs were metal braces to help his muscles and bones grow properly. This meant that he was confined to a couch for the next several weeks.
Towards the end of the week one of the students on the trip, Aldo, was visited by his grandmother and aunt. His family is originally from Peru, so they were estatic when they heard he would be just outside of Lima. When they came to the Hogar they brought goodie bags filled with candy and other sweets for the kids. They were also kind enough to bring us some as well! As Aldo passed out the goodie bags, I grabbed one to give it to Bryan. I gave Bryan his goodie bag and proceeded to sit down and take a break from the work we had been doing that morning. As he opened his bag he said to me, “Amigo, aquí!” (Here, friend!) and offered me some of his candy. “¿Para mí?” I said (For me?). He nodded his head.
I was floored by his generosity. He rarely, if ever, received treats and he had every right to keep them for himself. He didn’t have to share them with me. But he still shared what little he had. His generous gift of his possessions reminded me of the poor widow in the Gospel of Mark. She only gave a few cents in the temple offering, but Jesus found her sacrifice more pleasing than the rich people who gave from their excess (Mark 12: 41-44). She gave all that she had to God. In the same way, Bryan gave what little he had to me. It must have been agonizing for him to sit and watch his amigos play all day and not be able to join them. Despite being restricted to the couch all day, he never complained once. Even in his suffering he was focused externally. He was more concerned with the well-being of others than with himself. It was in this humble, simple moment in Peru that I saw Christ’s teaching of gift of self in action. Bryan allowed me to see what it means to be rich in the love of Christ. He exemplified what it means to be truly generous.