Dancing with Joy by Lolita "Girlie" Gary

For months I had been anxiously anticipating my Maryknoll Mission Immersion Program to Esquipulas, Guatemala. One of the events on the agenda sheet which I received that caught my attention was a visit to El Hogar de mi Hermano- a home for senior citizens. I was immediately impressed when we arrived at the very attractive yellow stucco building for our visit. A colorful mural was painted on the outside front wall and the indoor patio was filled with colorful flowers. But what struck me the most was to see the obvious care, love and attention that was being lavished on the women and men in the home. I was surprised to see how active the residents were – not sitting in chairs staring at a TV but walking around with smiles or sitting on the outdoor patio, eager to chat with us. The place had a feeling of peace and love.

One of the objectives of our program was to allow ourselves to be immersed in the lives of the people – to “be with them” in a Christ-like attitude. This visit was giving us just that opportunity  I watched John, one of our group, sitting silently with a blind lady – gently holding her hand and rubbing it lovingly. In his face I could see the face of Christ. We took pictures of the residents who enjoyed so much seeing their faces in our digital cameras. Theirsmiles showed the "child likeness” that Jesus speaks about in the Gospels.I could not speak Spanish so was concerned that I would not be able to communicate. But suddenly I felt someone pulling my arm. When I turned around there was a petite woman in a white blouse, floral purple skirt and wearing green, white and red striped socks. Her eyes twinkled and there was a very joyful smile on her face. She took my hand and started dancing. It was such a heart -warming moment – to experience her joy. I easily got into the swing of the dance and soon another lady joined us. I realized in a flash that it did not matter that I couldn’t speak Spanish and they couldn't speak English – our hearts were expressing what no words could speak. It was a wonderful time being dance partners for each other!

These were truly people of FAITH and HOPE, in spite of their being without family and having so few visitors. They were inspiration for my soul. As I have so often heard, “I thought I had come to give but I received so much in return!” 

Lolita “Girlie” Gary

Maryknoll Affiliate and Parish Volunteer 

St. Louis King of France 

New Orleans, Louisiana