When walls crumble

Right now, the economic situation in Nigeria is really tough.  One night I met a shoe repair man in a street.  You could tell that he had been going around with his work kit all day without finding any clients.  He probably hadn’t eaten all day.  He was exhausted and distressed.  When I met him, he came over and asked for a bit of money so that he could eat. I felt a great compassion within but also a great anger.  Yes, I am angry against the government that does nothing to help these young people who work all day but can’t earn a living!  And then I thought to myself: “And what do I do to help him?”  This man was Muslim and I am a Christian.  A lot of things separate us.  But in this situation of powerlessness, he trusted me and I him.  I didn’t consider the risk I was taking but thought of this man’s need and invited him to come to the Fraternity and eat with us.  When you live in such a difficult situation, our differences fall away, all the walls of fear crumble and our shared humanity unites us!

The present situation in our country is very worrying.  Insecurity reigns.  There are a lot of demonstrations, kidnappings as well as plenty of fake news.  All of that increases fear.  Everywhere I sense the insecurity within me: at home, at Church, at work…One day I was at the market and everyone suddenly closed their stalls and started running.  I asked, “Why is everyone running?”  I received the answer, “They’re coming to kill us.”  And I realized that no one even know who “they” is.  But that’s how it is, we always live in fear.  That day I said to myself that I couldn’t go on living like that, always on the defence.  So I made a decision to live, to not die before death came.  Since that day, my level of anxiety has gone down, just like the fear that paralyzed and poisoned my life.  Each day I ask God for the grace to continue like this. 

Danger is always present, especially when travelling.  We can be stopped by gangs or by the army.  Recently I was able to go beyond my fear and experience a beautiful meeting during an army control.  When you see soldiers, you see big armed men who are very sure of themselves.  So when one of them got down in front of me, kneeling to ask for a blessing, I was really touched.  The first thing that I thought was, “It’s not up to me to do that”.  But afterwards I said to myself: “It’s God who gives the blessing, and me, can I not transmit this blessing?”  I started to pray, but that wasn’t enough for him.  The soldier insisted: He wanted me to touch his head with my hand.  So, I extended my hand and when I touched his head, I felt the wall that separated us crumble.  We were together in a shared humanity.  Jesus was the first to extend his hand towards us.  He showed us the way to bring down those walls that we build in our heads, in our hearts and in our way of thinking…

In the midst of all the difficulties that our country is undergoing, signs of hope emerge.  Each day life reserves some surprise for us.  At the bus station for example, there are a lot of people.  Among the many men searching for passengers for their bus one said to me: « Nne Jesu kee ebe i n’eje ? », that’s to say « Mother of Jesus, where are you going ? ».  I was so surprised that I turned towards the man and started to laugh.  And everyone around us also started laughing.  And I thought that he was right: it’s our mission to be Jesus’ mother, to bring Jesus into the world.  Did Jesus not say in the Gospel: “If someone does the will of my Father, that person is my brother, my sister, my mother”? (Mt 12: 46-50) Often, in my heart, I thank that simple, teasing man who reminded me of my mission.

If we really listen carefully to each event, each word, even the most insignificant ones, then life becomes Good News for each one of us! Maureen