Sunday, September 4 2012
I am awake at 4:00 and shower in the upstairs bathroom. We don't need to be up until 6:30 today and we are aware of this fact, but still people begin rising in anticipation of our last day in Kingston around 5:00.
The plan for the day is to clean up the large chapel in anticipation of Mass, so the guys will need to temporarily clear out their cots and mattresses and help set up chairs.
We will not go to Mass here. We will return to Bethlehem and the Lord's Place to help the residents get ready for Mass in the huge chapel on the grounds there. Then we will be taken with other first time volunteers to Sacred Heart, where the Brothers live, for lunch.
I pack everything up and strip my cot, as Jerry and I have made a reservation at a hotel, and will leave after lunch. We have Morning Prayer, and then hang around the Holy Innocents compound until time to leave. We enjoy the garden there for the first time, and marvel at the tropical vegetation.
We are assigned again to The Lord's Place. By now some of the residents are familiar with us, and they greet us with enthusiasm. The place has been transformed since the day before and erupted into a joyful frenzy.
My little girls with Downs, who have stolen my heart, are bustling about helping less able residents pull on clothing and find shoes. The fearsome aunties are not to be seen, and the auntie on duty is patient and careful.
There are several Brothers on duty this morning, and I am thrilled to see them hugging and joshing with the residents, who clearly love them.
Still, it's a mess. The residents do not own any clothing, and must take pot luck. It's clear that some are vying for a particular dress or blouse to wear this week.
A wiry little resident named Bethany, black as ebony and clearly possessed of impressive organizational skills, bustles about issuing orders, which likely as not are ignored.
A cabinet is opened. There are stacks of new skirts that look like they came from the wardrobe of the Ballet Folclorico de Mexico. They are sateen, flared, with three tiers of wide, colorful stripes. In another cabinet are new pink golf shirts obviously donated following a charity golf tournament in the States, as they bear the logo of a church. The combination is bizarre, to say the least, but becomes the favored fashion of the morning.
The little Downs girls dress identically and braid each other's hair. (They are two of the few residents allowed to keep their hair.)
The auntie on duty works with Amanda, from our group, and more seasoned volunteer from another. Bras are issued for the day; the residents are thrilled and happily pull up their shirts to show me.
Some women are rubbed down with lotion before dressing, while others are powdered. Then the hunt for shoes that fit, or that at least can be tolerated for the duration of Mass, are found and issued.
A final spritz of perfume and we are off to the races. Bethany takes me in hand and shows me the way to the chapel.
We arrive early and are told to sit up close to the front. Decker is seated on the first row, with Samuel in his arms. Samuel is the size of a two-year old, but has Downs and I estimate his age at about four. He clings expertly to Decker and surveys everything and everybody with acute attention.
The pews are jam-packed into the Chapel, and every pew is full. There is scarcely enough room to stand up, the pew in front of us is so close to us, but we manage.
An elderly Jamaican man is just finishing leading the Rosary, a hymn is announced, and the joyful procession begins. There are 40 Brothers in the choir and 20 more make up the instrumental ensemble, with guitars, drums, bass, keyboard, and a riot of rhythm instruments.
At last Mass is ready to begin. The Brothers announce the song and the chapel erupts with joyful song. Everybody begins to sway and clap and sing. The bamboo cross passes by and little Samuel, in Decker's arms, waves his little arms in perfect time to the beat.
And so it goes for two solid hours. I am moved, I am relieved, I am restored.
I am reminded of my favorite scripture: “God will restore the years the locusts ate.” Like a kaleidoscope that takes a quarter turn, the whole picture of my experience in Jamaica has shifted.
Where there was despair, there was now hope, and Jerry and I agreethat we will find ways to help the Brothers in their work.
Thanks be to God.