“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.”
Oh me of little faith….that’s the phrase that goes through my head when I think about my friend Zoila.
By all accounts, Zoila should be hopeless. She is an 82 year old tiny undocumented Filipina, trafficked to the US 35 years ago by an unscrupulous “employer”. She only knows 100 English words, is nearly deaf, had no family, no money, and no source of support. She lived on the generosity of families who took her in and took care of her while she took care of them. When she showed up at our house after being told that she could no longer live with the family that had housed her for 10 years, we took her in for a year.
Although she was unfailingly kind, living with Zoila wasn’t easy, especially when she took over our garden. She would wander our neighborhood and take cuttings out of strangers’ yards and plant them all over our yard. She was absolutely convinced that God would grow these spindly plants—and amazingly, with Zoila’s tender care some of them grew! Zoila was also always convinced that God would take care of her—and God did. Zoila bloomed with hope, and she nurtured hope and faith in me.
Zoila would have withered and died years ago without her hope. There are so many refugees and undocumented people like Zoila who live only on the hope of creating better, safer, less violent lives for themselves and those they care for, and the belief that God will deliver them to security. Right now, our country seems to be depriving them even of that last vestige of their human dignity—their hope.
Shouldn’t everyone have a right to hope, a right to believe that God will take care of them in the places where they try to plant themselves anew?
PS: This story has a happy ending. Zoila is now back in the Philippines, taken in by a large community who love her. She is known to that community as “Nanay Zoila”, which means Mama. She has finally found her forever family.
- How can we nurture hope in others, especially migrants and refugees whose hope is diminishing in these difficult times?
- How can we remain a hopeful people even when times seem dark?
Mary Baudouin is the Provincial Assistant for Social Ministries for the Jesuits of the US Central and Southern Province.