A story of joy and blessing

Mona (left) with a woman from the village. Photos: Monalisa Esteban

It was one of those ordinary days when we visit one of the villages around the parish. Our visitation team usually includes a Columban priest, a catechist, a lay missionary and/or a sister. While the priest and the catechist talk with the village men, I mingle with the women. This is the usual setup. 

On that day, I met this elderly woman for the first time. It was a pleasant day, and everyone seemed happy going about their business and preparing lunch before Mass. I was like a grasshopper, jumping from one chulah (clay stove) to another, greeting and chatting a little with the women while they were doing their cooking. However, I stopped hopping around when I landed at the charpay (stringed bed) where this elderly woman was sitting.

We had a good chat about her family and life in the village. She was so enthusiastic in sharing her story and I enjoyed listening to it. We asked a few questions of each other that sparked our interest. I felt she wanted to tell me something. It was a story of joy and blessing!

We were enjoying our time together, laughing and telling stories, when before I knew it, a basin was placed in front of me by a woman holding a jar of water. Suddenly, the elderly woman grabbed my hands, smiled at me and started washing them. I tried to pull my hands away and protested that I could wash them myself, but my defence was not strong enough.

She held my hands in hers and while she was caressing them, I felt something like a needle prick inside. It left me speechless, and I could only gaze at her and smile. I felt hands that were neither soft nor manicured; hands that have sown seed and reaped their reward after long months of patiently nurturing the land; hands that bled during hard, rushed harvest seasons; hands to be proud of and be grateful for, because of their hard work; hands that tell a lot of stories of life.

I still remember her face as it smiled at me while saying something I could not make out, even though I was just in front of her. Maybe because I was star struck by what she was doing. At that moment, deep inside me, I was experiencing mixed emotions.

If this was Jesus washing my feet, this would possibly be the feeling I would experience. I am in awe that I was able to witness this kind of love from someone whom I had just met for the first time. Her humble witness to a complete stranger really left me with a feeling of welcome.

Columban lay missionary, Monalisa Esteban, lives and works in Pakistan.

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