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Spirit Story

An encounter with hope in Honduras

By Keith Reynolds

Look! Esperanza tells me. “Look” is the word she most often repeats. Esperanza does not use many words to communicate. Often her sentences are one word, maybe two. When she does speak, I learned to pay attention.

Esperanza lives with nine other people in the L’Arche community in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a place where people with intellectual disabilities and those who come to assist share life together. “Esperanza” means hope in English. And for the five weeks I lived in her home during a recent sabbatical, I shared some time with Hope in Honduras.

We often sat together on the front porch watching people go by, listening to dogs bark or

roosters crow. Every now and again, something unusual would happen and Esperanza would call my attention by saying, “Look.” Look at the mango on the tree. Look at the guacamole. Look, the rain is beginning to fall. Look, someone we know is coming to visit. Look, we need to get more water from the cistern.

Look. Pay attention to little details. There is so much to see. Life offers opportunity. Lift up your eyes. Notice what surrounds us.

There were days when Esperanza’s invitation to look did not appeal to me. I was tired. I was interested in other things. I was in the middle of something else. But whether I was ready for it, whether I was interested or not, Esperanza still pointed to something for me to see.

Because Esperanza does not use many words to communicate, her presence became that much more important. A silent presence can sometimes bring a depth that cannot be found with words. Esperanza’s presence symbolized something of hope for me.

Hope does not come in with fanfare; it arrives in subtleties. The way of hope is marked often by small gestures that can go unnoticed but leave an imprint to let us know she was here. She sits with us on the couch. She walks with us down the street. She accompanies us in the nighttime of our fears. She laughs easily. She does not broadcast her presence, and yet people bear witness to hope that rises within us, because an encounter with hope changes us.

At supper each evening, Esperanza would point to the chair next to her, call my name and ask me to sit beside her. It was great to have a friend, to feel welcomed, to be asked to be nearby. Come and be close. I want to share some time with you. Your life matters to me. Can you receive the gift I want to give you?

There were nights when I wanted to sit near someone else. Maybe there are some nights for all of us when we would rather not even come to the table. I’ll take my food and go somewhere else; it’s easier that way. I won’t bother you, and you won’t bother me. The beautiful thing about hope is that even when we decline her invitation, the welcome remains. Hope waits. It’s okay, I’m still here. I will ask again.

Meals with Esperanza gradually grew into a gentle companioning. It happened over time, the slow, steady, faith-filled work of relationship. Hope can arrive in an instant. More often, the revelation of hope takes a while. She is present all the time, but it is the repetition and rhythmic nature of life that opens me to be attentive to hope.

If Esperanza wanted to go outside and sit together on the front porch, she would often point to the door and say, “Look.” There is a spot for us on the steps. Look. Do you want to spend some time together? Look. I am offering an invitation. Can you receive it?

Something of God is revealed. Esperanza is her name. Hope is her gift. Look.

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