by Sr. Joanne Kelly MMM Ireland 26.02.2023
One morning I took a walk in our garden. The walk through the garden rises in a long gentle slope lined on the right by four almond trees now stripped and bare in this winter season. It was a mild morning. Rain had fallen earlier and a weak winter sun was trying to pierce the clouds. I walked up the slope, past those dark damp trees and noticed nothing.
I turned to come back and what a transformation! A weak shaft of sunlight had broken through and touched all four trees. Every branch and every little twig had held on to its raindrops and were now sparkling with a myriad of little silver lights shining in this dark morning. It was quite spectacular- a complete transformation, a real winter wonder.
It set me thinking about what kind of light can transform a person whose future seems too dark.
I once knew a man who lived near to where I was working in a village for people suffering from leprosy at a time when people with leprosy had to be segregated. He was the first person in his village to qualify as a trained teacher and the whole village was very proud of him. I will call him Simon.
He had great plans but sadly he contracted leprosy. It was a terrible blow to him and he just could not believe it or accept it. He was in complete denial, refusing to come for treatment until eventually the chief and people, fearful for others, sent him out of the village.
Our sister doctor heard about him. She and her mobile team sought him out and brought him to the leprosy village and started him on treatment. He absconded several times but each time they went in search of him and brought him back. He was neglecting himself and by then he was showing more physical signs of the illness.
There were young children in the village at the time, some who had leprosy and others whose parents had it. They attended the village primary school. Their teachers were young men who themselves had not gone further than primary school. These young men were encouraged to ask Simon for guidance and no matter how sullen or uncooperative he was they showed him great respect and appreciated any help he gave, however reluctantly it was given. .
It is a long story but Simon eventually became principal of that school and many of his students went on to secondary school, and a few to university. He became a strong leader in the village and in the church.
Many, many years later I was assigned back to that area. I visited the village some evenings and on my way back would visit Simon, now living with his wife Maria in the new house their son had built for them. He had retired from school but was still the Church Catechist.
As he sat on the veranda in his armchair in the cool of the evening Simon enjoyed nothing better than to talk about all the MMM sisters who had worked there and all the other staff and village people who had given him a reason to live. He told of the many times he tried to hide from them but now thanked God for their care and compassion, and their resolute perseverance. His face would light up as he told his stories, remembering each one, their characters, their ways of working and so many near disasters or funny instances. He was so proud of his wife and their son.
His life had been transformed by love.