When is enough just enough? Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about something a little Nicaraguan girl and a little 5 year old girl here in the US told me many years ago.
First, the Nicaraguan child’s story: We had begun feeding children during our very first year on Mission- 20 years ago! I was observing a little girl eating about 1/4 of the food we had put in her bowl. I wondered why this child wasn’t eating…surely, she was hungry, she looked malnourished and her eyes were sunk into her lovely but thin face. And this event was 3 months after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, when much of Nicaraguan was destroyed, bringing its marginalized population to their knees from fatigue, homelessness, poverty, and hopelessness. So, I certainly couldn’t understand why this little girl wasn’t eating all of the meager serving we gave her.
So, I leaned over and through an interpreter, asked her, “Honey, why aren’t you eating? Isn’t the food good? Are you sick?” To that onslaught of questions, she simply looked up at me and said in Spanish, “I’m eating JUST ENOUGH so my belly stops hurting, and I’m taking the rest home to feed my family.” Simple, direct, just enough….
Her words still echo in my soul today. When is enough just enough?
And then, there’s the little 5 year old’s words to me, as our first large group prepared to embark on a journey which would change some of our lives forever: We were scrunched into the old MAI chapel here in Plattsburgh, saying a departure prayer as we prepared to board a bus and end up in a country known as Nicaragua. Yes, in my head, I knew it was going to be a challenge…taking 52 people of various ages to a country where there was little water, no electricity and not enough food or beds for the group. “Green behind the ears”? YOU BETCHA! Plus I had laryngitis because I was so afraid of flying, of spiders, etc. And in the midst of all this, my little 5 year old grand niece, is crying and saying to me, “Aunt Debbie, please don’t go! I don’t want you and Aunt Steph to go”. I asked her why, since she and other children as well as scores of adults, had collected food, clothing, toys which we were bringing and she responded, “Because it’ll be different”. Hmmmm….In her childlike wisdom, she knew something I and many others were about to learn…YES, INDEED, it would be different, we’d be different when we returned. So, too, her words echo in my soul as well. Isn’t it enough that you raised $30,000? Isn’t it enough that you have 200 boxes of emergency supplies to bring? Isn’t it enough? When is enough just enough?
Both of these children, by example, taught me valuable life long lessons:
lessons of sharing what little you have with others,
lessons of recognizing that compassion and service not only change us, but it’s also meant to change others,
lessons of perseverance for the long haul, not just a quick fix that makes ourselves feel better, but a commitment that influences the way we live daily,
lessons of realizing that as long as there are hungry and sick children down our street, or in Nicaragua, in orphanages in Venezuela, in volcanic aftermaths in Guatamala, in hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico, in tornadic destruction in Oklahoma, etc….. or across the world, “Enough isn’t anywhere near enough”.
Sr. Ita Ford, one of the nuns raped and murdered in El Salvador in 1980 said this shortly before her untimely death:
“Am I willing to suffer with the people here, the suffering of the powerless, the feeling impotent? Can I say to my neighbors – I have no solutions to this situation; I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, search with you, be with you? Can I let myself be evangelized by this opportunity? Can I look at and accept my own poorness as I learn it from the poor ones?”
Not all of us are called to be full time missionaries. Not all of us are called to go on Mission. Not all of us can leave work or our families. BUT YES, all of us can walk with those who are voiceless, journey with those searching for justice and truth. AND YES, all of us can share what little we have….all of us can learn to be compassionate….all of us can serve…. and each of us are called to share HOPE whenever, wherever, however.
And it is my firm belief that when we live that way, “ENOUGH WILL BE ENOUGH!” Live and be HOPE this week!