Lost Grace – She was Holding Jesus
She was at the counter of a drug store waiting for the medicine. In her arms, her daughter was sleeping. In her hands, a torn paper, the prescription given by a doctor. After a while, the pharmacist comes to her and says “I am sorry you don’t have insurance, we cannot give you the medicine.” She didn’t understand and said: medicine for my daughter. Please.” The man repeated: “I am sorry you don’t have health insurance, can you pay?” “Yes, yes” she said and the pharmacist replied: “it is $ 450.00.” She opened her purse and while holding her exhausted sleeping daughter, she picked up twelve dollars and 37 cents. While she was putting the money at the counter with some difficulty, the pharmacist said: “madam, I am sorry, this medicine is too expansive…” She stretch her arm showing the sign “wait” with her hand while she was trying to find more money in the ends of her purse. The pharmacist was embarrassed and the people on the line were starting to lose their patience. She found couple nickels and added to the rest of the money she had placed at the counter. The man said: “I am sorry, this is not enough.” She said: “take it please.” “Everything,” she said. “Medicine please.” “I am sorry but this is not enough, please step outside of the line, I need to attend the people on the line.” She said “medicine please, my daughter sick, very sick.” “Please step outside” said the now inpatient pharmacist. She didn’t understand and her exhausted face was being filled with fear. She said “please doctor, please.” A man at the line took the money from the counter and tried to give it to her but she refused: “No please take, medicine for my daughter, very sick, very sick.” The man opened her purse and threw the money inside. “Please step outside” this other customer screamed. She did step outside saying: “please medicine, my daughter very sick. please” The pharmacist and the people on the line started to act as if she was not there and kept doing their business. She started to scream, “medicine please” while trying to get the money again inside of her purse. The pharmacist said “madam, if you continue to scream I will have to call security.” The woman started to say “sorry, sorry, medicine please, medicine please. my daughter…” And while she was crying she went through the line asking people: “money please, my daughter very sick, look” while she was showing them the subscription given by the doctor. People started to complain saying she was bothering everybody and the pharmacist called security. “No please” she said, “medicine only. I go, please medicine my daughter very sick, I go, I go.” The security came and she started to whaling so loud that she wokep her daughter up. Both were crying when the two security guards came to take this 5.5 inches tall woman with her 4 year old daughter in her arms. While security were talking her out she cried even louder: “Senor Jesus ten piedad, ten piedad! Ten piedad Señor Jesús, mi hija está tan enfermita, por favor les pido que me dé la medicina que mi hija necesita. por favor. por favor Jesucristo…” And she was taken away from the drug store and placed on the streets with the two guards securing the door. She sat on the cold street. She and her daughter were crying and she was praying “Jesucristo ten piedad.” Jesus Christ, have mercy.
Her prayers were never answered. Surely God did not have mercy on her. Surely her daughter went without medicine. Can we say God had mercy on her? How so? Who to blame? God? If she wasn’t here illegally one could say, she wouldn’t have to go through this. But she was a citizen of this country… like Mary, she was holding Jesus at Christmas eve…
We are the arms and legs of God’s answer and yet, God is always beyond us. Her prayer will never be replied if not through us. Prayer is an exercise on love, a love that we have to become. To pray to God is to become that which we pray for. To sing the kyrie every week in our worship services is to become, by God’s grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, God’s merciful flesh in the world. To pray is an act of love, love for God, love for my brothers and sisters, love for the world. To learn to pray is to to learn how to become Christ in the world. To learn how to pray is to walk around the world, where the least of these are asking them forgiveness and than finding ways to change things. To pray is to become God’s love for the least of these. I will not learn how to pray until I learn how to serve, how to change the world, how to make sure that the poor are cared for, attended by the mercy of God in and through us. Until this woman receives the medicine for her daughter, I will never learn how to pray. Every time a prayer like this woman uttered is not unanswered, a grace is lost. We live amidst “lost graces,” (term used by André Breton) possibilities of God’s tangible manifestation in our midst, offered to us to expand us, to make us better Christians, more humans and we often miss them. Lost graces are the offering of God’s presence that we do not pay attention, we don’t have eyes to see, ears to hear, patience to wait, arms to embrace, craziness to enter into fights, hands to touch.
* This piece is part of a larger article published at Dialog Journal:
Claudio Carvalhaes, Praying with the World at Heart, Article first published online: 12 DEC 2013 DOI: 10.1111/dial.12067