I am completely overwhelmed by the gift I’ve been given in my daughter. I watch the way that she brings joy to others and my heart soars watching this gift of hers while my stomach simultaneously drops as I realize the great responsibility I’ve been given in her formation. Maybe I should say, the great responsibility I’ve been given in not messing up the gifts Kateri knows how to use. Do you know the feeling?
My grandfather is in hospice care at a skilled nursing facility and we are blessed to have the ability to visit him every Wednesday. The nursing home often seems overrun by melancholy. It is heartbreaking to see so many people so profoundly sad. There are too many people who rarely or never get visitors, too many people whose only human interaction is with an overburdened, overworked nurse trying to make it through his or her shift.
When these residents see a little girl smiling and tottering towards them, babbling incoherently, the change in the room is palpable. She smiles and interacts with everyone – whether you are trapped in your own body as a result of a stroke, bound to a wheelchair by old wounds, or your mind is a puzzle you can’t quite piece together due to dementia. She places no qualifications on her friendship, she simply wants to look you in the eye and acknowledge that you are there. You are human, you have worth, and she is interested in you.
Oh how often I’ve looked away, failing to recognize the humanity in someone. Sometimes I look away because it’s awkward – someone’s asking for money and I don’t have any to give. Sometimes I look away because I’ve planned too much in one day and giving a smile might ruin my schedule. Most times I look away because I’m uncomfortable. I don’t know what to say to someone I’ve categorized as “other.”
One of the most beautiful relationships I’ve ever witnessed is between Kateri and her friend D. I don’t know much about D because he is non-verbal and I’ve only met one family member once. I do know that he’s in his 90’s and is confined to a wheelchair, his body contorted by some disease. He isn’t able to speak, but he is able to wave, smile, and give a thumbs up. The joy on his face when Kateri comes to hang out with him is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s also like nothing D’s family has ever seen – the one time we ran into his cousin she was astonished at his joy. She had never seen him smile like he smiled at Kateri.
Kateri reminds me that bringing joy doesn’t take much. Sometimes it takes nothing more than a smile and a high five, an offer of a goldfish cracker and an incoherent babble. Bringing joy might just mean looking in someone’s the eyes and saying hello. Bringing joy might just mean showing up. Yesterday, Kateri had D smiling for joy just because she sat at his table and ate her peanut butter and jelly.
Kateri is just happy to be around people – people of any age, race, or ability. It is as if she knows that each of these people are made in the image of our wonderful God. She is a constant reminder that finding joy is as easy as opening our eyes to the beauty of the world around us and bringing joy can be as easy as acknowledging the presence of those around us.
This post is a link-up with Blessed is She on the topic of Finding Joy. Check out the other awesome reflections and make sure to explore the rest of their website to discover a beautiful community of Catholic women.