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Almost two years ago I moved from Cincinnati, Ohio, to El Paso, Texas, to experience life in community and life on the margins as an Affiliate with the Sisters of Charity. To be honest, I was not looking forward to the move. I had never imagined myself living in the Southwest, and my complete lack of Spanish made me feel like a fish out of water. This feeling was amplified when I began joining the Sisters in ministry at the Proyecto Santo Niño clinic, a day program for special needs children and their families in Anapra, Mexico. I had no idea how I would be able to contribute without the language or any experience with special needs children.
Fast forward to now.
When we pull up to the clinic in the morning, I am greeted by children running out to the car and calling, “Whitney,” “Winnie,” “Wendy,” or some other variation of my name (which does not translate well in Spanish). In broken but much improved Spanish, I ask them how they are and what they want to play that day. Many times I end up being a tiburón or zombi chasing them around the playground. Other times we color together, or they want me to read them a book (in Spanish of course), which usually requires them helping me pronounce every third word. And sometimes I’m lucky enough to have some of the girls give me a makeover, complete with a fancy up-do and thick makeup. To my pleasant surprise, there are a lot of things you can do with children without speaking their language!
Next month I will move back to Cincinnati to become a Novice; and as my time on the border comes to an end, I reflect on my experiences here with awe and gratitude. I have learned so much about love, about patience, about service, and about myself. The children have reminded me how to enjoy the little things in life, they’ve shown me how to love indiscriminately, and they’ve taught me that I am capable of more than I often think I am. There have been many encounters that have contributed to my growth over these past two years, but the children of Proyecto Santo Niño have definitely made one of the deepest imprints on my heart. Although it will be difficult to say goodbye to the border, I am thankful for the time that I’ve had here, and I look forward to the road ahead.