What's in Your Hand?

What's in Your Hand?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The lesson Magdaline taught me...by Gwenn Mangine

The lesson Magdaline taught me-- by Gwenn

by Joy In Hope on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 5:08pm
One of the things we love to do with our kids is head out to search for sea glass.  It’s fun for us, and it helps my mom’s company, Jacmel Bay, which supports Joy in Hope and serves the deaf community in Jacmel, Haiti.

Having any kind of disability is very difficult in Haiti.  Very difficult.  There are situations we’ve heard about where parents simply stop feeding children who are disabled as there just aren’t resources available to help children with special needs. The same is true for deaf children.  It is so frustrating as many deaf children do not have other special needs and can learn and develop well—it’s just that they need a community around them who can help them communicate.  There is a large deaf population in Jacmel because there is a school for the deaf here.  Even with a significant population of deaf in Jacmel, there are still very few resources, however, strides are being made.  More parents/families of deaf children are learning sign language and there are several educators who are committed to seeing opportunities for the deaf.  Change is happening.

However, yesterday something happened at the beach, which I won’t soon forget.  We were at Jacmel Bay collecting sea glass.  It’s pretty normal that kids see us doing this and catch on to what our goal is…  They all come up to us and start helping.  I love it.  They never beg from us or ask for money—they just pick up on what we are doing and start helping.  It’s pretty cute.  The same thing happened yesterday.  Random kids started helping us and there was a girl that was in her mid-teens that started walking along with us, just holding hands and smiling.  I tried to talk to her but she wouldn’t respond—she’d just smile and laugh.  I assumed from looking at her that she had some sort of mental challenge and realized she couldn’t or didn’t want to talk back.  But she caught on quickly—finding and picking up pieces of sea glass and proudly giving them to me.  It was quite endearing.   The first time she did it I told her that she had done a perfect job and the kids around me said, “Oh, she can’t hear what you’re saying, she’s deaf.”  I asked her name and they told me that her name was Magdaline.  I asked if she signed and the kids told me she didn’t.

I looked Magdaline up and down.  In spite of having some teeth that had rotten, she looked like she’d not been totally neglected.  Sure, she was very thin, but her hair clean and was also braided in neat cornrows.

And I couldn’t help think about the irony of what was happening in front of my eyes.  Here was a young woman with incredible challenges.  Let’s just face it—she’s basically the low man on the totem pole in a society that’s the lowest on the totem pole in our hemisphere.  But she saw what we were doing and she wanted in.  She didn’t know that the point of our collection was to help people marginalized much in the same way she had been.  She worked along side of us asking nothing in return.  She was happy to walk alongside of us, hand in hand and offer us the “gems” we were searching for along the beach.

I was very convicted because this young woman who had nothing to “offer” was offering me what she did have.

It reminded me of the story Jesus tells of the rich young ruler, a man too tied to his earthly possessions that he was missing out on the kingdom of God.  It was a good reminder for me.  Being in a tough season from a financial standpoint, it’s tempting for me to focus on all that we do not have instead of the ways God has blessed us.    But yesterday Magdaline was such a good reminder to me that it’s not about what you have not been given—it’s about how you will live with what you do have.

Will we, despite the challenges we’ve given, wallow in self-pity?  Or will we focus on living in and serving community?   Yesterday while all this was transpiring, the thought crossed my mind that it frustrated me that I didn’t have more to offer her. (Because I am American like that and all.) But just as quickly as that thought crossed my mind, I was reminded that Magdaline hadn’t asked me for anything.  She just wanted to walk along with us, to smile and laugh, to hold my hand.

And so that’s what we did.

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