We’ve been friends for a long time, Sister Vero and I. She and I both started the jobs we currently hold at the same time in March 2005. We came to know each other first by email and later, through the visits I make to Mombasa, Kenya. With her quick smile, huge hugs, and loving ways, I was embraced into her world – a world that is full of orphans, widows, poor, destitute, unloved, and the unwanted. Here, she lives fully, giving of herself day in and day out, loving well and showing others what it is to do so humbly and with dignity.
I have picked up the phone to hear gasps of crying on the other side of the world telling me that a beloved child had passed away. We cry together, miles apart, but with the same heart. We’ve lost a child under our watch and we can’t bear the loss. I don’t have words to express my sorrow, so the tears fall in silence.
I have picked up the phone to hear gasps of joy as someone in the program is doing well…is growing…is doing. We rejoice together. We celebrate the victories and she tells me stories of our kiddos. Those who are in school or in college. Those who survived childhood and who are now in university and my heart can’t stop to catch its breath because we thought he or she was going to be lost to the horrible HIV/AIDS, but instead, they rose up from the dead, quite literally in some cases, and are now in college, flourishing and thriving.
We play soccer together when we are in the same country. And we laugh. We laugh. We laugh.
We visit those who are hurting and we hurt with them. We offer grace and we start again.
We fight for the one without a voice.
We fight for the girl child. And we fight for the boy child just as hard.
We fight for education to all.
We fight for medicine to those who need it.
We fight for them.
Most of all, we dream. We spend time thinking of things we can do to make young lives better. Kids’ Days, educational programs, medicine, medical supplies, schoolbooks, counseling, nutritional supplements when famine hits, maternity wards…AFCA jumps in when we are called but it is never without forethought and planning. We set goals and we aim to meet them together. We seem to always dream big, like the library we want to set up in Gift Academy, so that all children have access to the books they must have in order to succeed in school. Or, the dream of building a place called Mercy Hospital. I can’t see an end to these dreams and as long as Vero is there, we will continue to press forward.
Vero has been my friend for 14.5 years and I can hardly believe it. How does she put up with me when I cross out her architectural drawings for a new clinic and redraw them for her ON A NAPKIN, telling her the halls are too narrow and the space is too tight for new mothers and that we need more ventilation and for crying out loud, we need western toilets for new mothers? How is it that we can find common ground when planning a new hospital? How is it that we are still friends when I tell her that the maternity ward is not planned out correctly and that they should leave us non-nuns to plan this type of thing? Ah, but I do love this woman…this servant…this blessing to so many. She inspires me and makes me do better. She urges me to not give up even when I am at my most tired. She pushes me to do more to help more and to offer more.
For all of this, I am grateful. I am so grateful to have met Vero all those years ago, when my trust in the good of humanity was big and when I thought we could do it all. Whenever I am fatigued and dragging, I am reminded of what is good, what is noble, and what is right. Vero is my sidekick or most likely, I am hers. I am her Robin.
Whatever it is that we are, I am grateful.
To you, Vero, I lift up my glass tonight. You have done so well and I am sure you will keep doing well until the very end. You help make me a better person and I am grateful for you today.