This morning as I was waiting for the bus, I witnessed an act of compassion that really struck me. I left the house a couple minutes later than usual which, as luck would have it, my bus passed as I was only halfway up the street to the bus stop and I realized I wouldn't be able to catch it even if I had run. The quince (the route to work is the 115) is notorious for being delayed and I knew I would be waiting at least 20 minutes for the next one. I decided to walk to the other bus stop at the market because there is another smaller bus that also passes by there thus increasing my chances of making it to work on time. I was waiting for the bus and somewhat zoning out, glancing around at the now familiar morning scenes: pockets of men drinking coffee and chatting with each other and the coffee vendor, women setting up their canastas (baskets) of brightly colored fruits and vegetables to sell along the side of the road, bicycles and motorcycles carrying up to four people on them, buses roaring off to Managua to drop off their passengers at school, work, the market. So, as I was standing there, two men approached an older gentleman who was sitting on a bench near me and one of them offered him a steaming, styrofoam cup of coffee and a piece of white bread. The other man with him stated that he would pay for it. Both men walked away and the old man began to eat and drink. The man who paid returned shortly thereafter and began to talk to the older man, “You feeling better now, viejito? You go ahead and eat that.” Patting his shoulder affectionately, it appeared as though they knew each other, but as the conversation continued it became evident that this was not the case. The man continues talking and asked where the old man lived. As it turns out, this older man lives nearby the market and yes, does have family there in the house. The other man indignantly blurts, “Some kind of family you must have that left you out here like this.” The old man expresses that his family no longer lets him in the house to which the other man shakes his head and mutters his disapproval. He then lets the viejito know that he has to leave him to go off to work. He makes sure the old man will be ok and reassures him that he can just stay right there on that bench and with a pat on the shoulder, starts to walk away.
Such care and concern for a man he didn't even know – for a stranger.
What does it mean to be a true neighbor? Why is it so hard for me sometimes to be patient with my community mates, people I know and love, or to take the time to sit and listen to a close coworker share about what is going on in her life, yet for this man at the market sharing come so naturally? I have been reflecting on how it can be easy to give away my leftovers, my extra clothes, the things I don't want anymore. It is not just limited to the material things either but also includes the way I spend my time. It's a lot easier to be present to others and what they have to share during my free time, after I've already done the things I had planned to do that day. What if I were to make myself more available to those around me, if I stopped to talk to the neighbors more often instead of rushing to the comfort of home and my own space? What if we create the space for conversations to form organically in our houses and communities, thus growing in confianza and relationship, making space to play games, to laugh together, to challenge each other to go deeper, to just be together even if no words are exchanged?
As we enter into Lent, I hope that this can be a time to go deeper, to be challenged, to alter aspects of my comfortable lifestyle in order to grow closer to my neighbors and to God, who is in each one of us.