In yesterday's blog I used this picture to demonstrate the work done by people in Antigua.
Our first impression might be that we think this man is lazy. This work is so different from what we would expect of a well dressed man in United States.
To help myself to understand, I have attempted to try to put the life of this man in perspective. I do not know this particular man, but I try to imagine.
If your life up to age 20 had been an experience of guerrilla warfare is this life of peace something to take for granted? What might it mean to you to experience this place of openness and safety? Is it perhaps healing? Does the street that you watch and the people that you meet bring hope to you for yourself, your family, your village, and your country? Does it feel good to talk to friends and passersby with a feeling of trust and communion? You might wonder what school is like as you watch the young with their backpacks knowing that you never attended school because it was too dangerous to leave the house.
My teacher lives with her husband in Antigua because it is a tranquil place. Visiting her home is a traumatic experience. Janet shared with me a small bit of what it was like growing up in the war which lasted until she was 18 years old. She remembers that....
...one day the soldiers came to her house and her father put both her brother (age 3) and her (age 5) under a basket and told them to be quiet. The children watched silently through the wicker as both of her parents were beaten. She remembers that somehow both she and her brother fell asleep and slept through the night under the basket. (Today she attributes the sleep to the angels.)
...her father dug a hole and the family of four slept in this small hiding place every night. Her father would leave a bit of food and money on the table as a bribe for the soldiers.
...her father was a baker and had a good business until the war. The war ended that.
...one night the soldiers came and killed the father of every family around her entire block. The only man spared on the block was her father who had spent the night in the hole. All of the fathers of her friends had been murdered. (When I asked why the other families did not follow the example of digging the hole, Janet said that they could not tell the other families about the hole because they did not know which people were their friends and which were spies for the soldiers.)
...her father hired a teacher to come to their house to teach her and her brother because going to the school was too dangerous.
...one day they were playing ball and her parents called her inside as dusk was coming. She and the other children continued to play. Someone kicked the ball away from the place they were playing. Janet retrieved the ball and when she stood up, there was a man standing in front of her. She ran back to her house. The man followed her and beat her parents and made them pay him some money so that they would not hurt her.
So, perhaps this man had to start his life all over as a young adult. Perhaps he started with nothing and with nobody. What he has now is a job, a family, a small home, some nice clothes, and money to buy food and pay rent for his space on the sidewalk where he holds his business. These are perhaps relationships and things that he never dreamed he would ever have. When he sits on the sidewalk waiting for shoes to shine, he offers prayers of gratitude that he is alive and that there is hope.
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012