Joy and Blessing

Water running into cupped hands.
Made to Feel Welcome

By Monalisa Esteban

A few months ago, I had this strange experience of having my hands washed by an old lady in the village. She grabbed my hands and started washing them. I did try to stop her, but in the end I surrendered to the moment.

It was one of the ordinary days of visiting the villages. Our visitation usually includes an ordained priest, a catechist, a lay missionary and/ or a Sister. While the priest and the catechist are talking with the village men, I am mingling with the women. This is the usual set up. That day was my first time to meet this old lady.

Mona with a village friend
Mona (left) with a village friend

It was a pleasant day, and everyone seemed happy, going about their business of preparing our lunch before the Holy Mass. I was like a hopper, jumping from one chulah (clay stove) to another just to greet and chat a little with these women while they were doing their cooking. Ending my hopping I landed on the charpay (stringed bed) where an old lady was sitting. We had a good chat about her family and life in the village. She was so enthusiastic to tell her story which I enjoyed listening to. We exchanged questions of each other that sparked our interest. I felt she wanted to tell me something – a story of joy and blessing!

We were killing time, laughing and storytelling, when before I knew it, a basin was placed in front of me along with a woman holding a jar of water. Suddenly the old lady grabbed my hands, smiled at me, and started washing them. I tried to pull them away and protested that I could do it myself, but my defense was not strong enough. She held them with her hands and while she was caressing them, I felt a neddle pinch me inside that left me speechless that I could only just gaze at her and smile. I felt a hand that was neither soft nor manicured. A hand that has sown seed and reaped the rewards after long months of patiently nurturing the land. A hand that bleeds during a hard rush harvest season. A hand to be proud of and be grateful for because of their hard work. A hand that tells a lot of stories to learn in life.

I still remember her face smiling at me while saying something which I couldn’t make out, even though I was just in front of her. Maybe because I was star-struck with what she was doing. At that moment, deep inside me, I was experiencing mixed emotions. If this were Jesus who was washing my feet, this would possibly be the feeling I was experiencing. I am in awe that I got to witness this kind of love from people I had just met for the first time. Her humble witnessing to a complete stranger really made me feel welcome.

Columban lay missionary Monalisa Esteban lives and works in Pakistan.