Today was our last day with Paula - our last chance to laugh with her, snack on her delicious yuca and potato treats, and work on her new home. These moments are always bittersweet as we have fallen in love with her spirit and her courage but must soon return home. But Paula will not leave us so long as we cherish the memories that she has blessed us with. In reflection the past couple of days, a number of us recalled that she kept inching closer to our work site, peeking over to see what was going on. Every time we'd glance back at her Paula would smile. Or when we would sit on her porch attempting our broken (and humorous) Spanish and listen to her devotion to Mary, her faith in God's providence, and her friendship with her dog. It was in these moments of relationship and conversation that she was so real, so beautiful, so human; Paula was just like us.
For me personally, the one-on-one talks with Paula hit a chord. I've been seriously discerning mission work and had Larry, a friend and Maryknoll himself, translate and ask for her prayers. She looked at me in a way that I can only describe as the way a mother looks at her child and knows he will make it in the end, with unconditional love and hope in. She told me that we are called to the Spirit, that fire for justice and love and faith, and that I should not be afraid anymore. God would provide all that we need. Obviously, Paula's words of hope in someone she barely knew shook my very bones; I started crying. I cried on the bus ride, and even now doing this blog, I'm choking up. Though she is trapped in the social disease that is poverty with little material possessions, she is rich. Her faith in God and people are testaments to that, and they are things I will never forget.
The tears of love and solidarity we cried together will forever be on my cheeks and in my heart. And though we say goodbye, Paula will go with us wherever we are, because she is part of the fabric of our lives now.
-BrianL (Brian is a Senior Philosophy/English double major at Ohio Dominican)