Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 31, 2004
Love is life's real treasure and wealth
Seeming physical poverty hides the true joy and riches of love between a man, a woman and their children
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
It's been a slow day. I went out with Father Gerry to mail a few letters to family and friends.
Also I accompanied him on a frustrating search for a man who had told Gerry that he felt he had found gold in some place up north and he wanted his opinion on that.
After a wild goose chase in rich areas of Guatemala City that are controlled with barriers managed by armed guards, we eventually found our man waiting for us on a street corner.
We went to his place. The stuff was not gold, I don't think, but metallic silver in colour and surprisingly heavy. He has lots of it hidden somewhere. Our conclusion was that geologists would need to be consulted.
The man lives with his wife and children in the most primitive house I've ever seen: an uneven dirt flour, walls and roof made up of old and half rusted tin sheets held up together with haphazard pieces of discarded lumber. There was a nice but rather small table, a bench and a few old chairs.
There are no doors so a family of chickens of various sizes as well as a huge turkey paid us courtesy visits.
Talking turkeyObviously the turkey was not impressed and expressed his disapproval by a few loud gobbling interjections that can't be printed in this respectable paper. He then turned his back to us and, visibly annoyed with us, flared his tail feather and gobbled some more as he strutted out most impolitely.
I felt like asking our host when their next turkey dinner was going to be.
There was also a small dog who felt free to come in and out at will. And in this environment of extreme poverty are four or five happy and healthy looking children as well as an older son in his late teens totally taken up by a sweet young lady, barely paying attention to us - not that I could blame him.
They and many other indigenous people like them are living in very poor conditions as squatters on small plots of lands on the edge of a mega city, establishing a number of shanty towns with no facilities whatsoever, not even electricity in many instances.
Father Gerry pointed out that this is the way they lived in their own communities in the northern part of the country. What struck me is that they looked happy and secure. This was home and they were at peace there, with no visible worries.
These are the poor, the happy poor, I might add, having each other to love and support and a few friends like Father Gerry to talk with and to share their dreams and problems now and then.
No doubt, the metal that the man found is a source of hope for him. If it turned out to be precious metal, his life would change dramatically. He would provide his family with a home with power and water and other amenities we take for granted. Having a dream keeps one going.
Down the road Father Gerry, after consulting people with knowledge of metals might meet with him again to let him know that the strange metal has little or no value.
The true treasureThe man might be disappointed for awhile. Eventually, I'm sure, he'll realize that even without a cache of gold hidden somewhere, he does have a real treasure in his life, a treasure that has nothing to do with precious metals of any kind, but rather with the metal of his own generous and peaceful character and that of his wife and children.
His true treasure is the life-giving relationships he's been able to establish with his wife and kids, including his enamoured son and girlfriend and a few friends like Father Gerry.
In them and through them he might have discovered that part of life's most important treasures is that he's surrounded with people who care, who share his struggles, his hopes and his dreams.
These are the treasures that never rust away nor vanish into thin air.
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