While on our community house trip in Negril we went to Mass Sunday morning and I was reminded by the homily of what Emmanuel means—“God with us.” During this Christmas season it is important to take a step back and see how God has been with us. During Mass, Jamaica memories over the past five months rushed through my head. Memories where I felt God had been with me. While it is important to recognize God’s presence in our lives, it is also important to know how each one of us is God’s light for each other.
When I returned back to life in Mandeville, I decided to interview the people I encounter everyday at my mission sites about how they see God working in their life, and how they show others God’s presence.
Here is what they had to say:
Andrea is a first year student at the Catholic College of Mandeville. She said, “I cannot walk without holding God’s hand.” Lisa is also a first year student at the Catholic College of Mandeville. She followed Andrea saying, “God is the host in our life.” Lisa went on to say that God works through Andrea and her teacher, Mrs. Goldberg. She said, “they let me talk to them and they listen. They push me to be successful.”
Lisa, Meisha, Andrea, and Sheryl (all first years at CCM) said at CCM they show God to others through sharing lunch with people when they do not have the money to eat, and through helping each other understand their school assignments.
The next day I went to the infirmary and was touched by what they had to say about God at work in others and in themselves.
Mr. Tomlinson said God is present in his life when he has a good relationship with everyone. He said he shows God to others through “singing religious songs” to his fellow residents at the infirmary and through having the heart of a child. And let me tell you…this is true! He shows a genuine interest in me and tries to build our relationship by asking in depth questions. He also has the playfulness of child. He knows the God within himself well.
Neville said he sees God in everything that is good. “I get up in the morning and give thanks that I get to bathe. I give thanks for water and breakfast. I give thanks that God provided a place like this for people who cannot help themselves.”
All Myrtle and Mr. Thompson had to say was that they are thankful for the breath of life, and they give thanks and praise when they see the sun come up another day. While this may sound cliché or scripted, the beautiful part about it is that they mean that with every part of their being.
The next day, Wednesday, I was doing home visits in Brae’s River and Miss Althea said, “every time I pray, my prayers are answered.” While she struggles financially, she says somehow the Lord always provides. Miss Althea believes she is God’s presence in Brae’s River by owning her small shop where she sells flour, canned mackerel, laundry soap, juice, water crackers, etc.—all of the Jamaican essentials. She says she enjoys assisting the people who come to her shop. Besides working in the fields occasionally, the shop is her everyday life and she gives glory to God through that.
Rita in Brae’s River is a strong faithful woman. She said God keeps and guides her through the night and day. She sees God in herself through her strength. Rita believes when she passes people and says hello and shares things with others she is showing God’s love to them.
What I learned from the conversations I had with these people is that their incredible faith is simple yet full of depth. Sharing with others and talking with others is how most of them believe they emulate God’s love. While this is simple, I have witnessed them do this to their greatest capacity. They live out their true self, and I believe that is the purest way God reveals God’s self to us. Their everyday practice of giving thanks for life is how they recognize God’s presence in their life. They give thanks to God for water, thanks for food, thanks for good grades, thanks for their breath, thanks for everything everyday.
Over the course of the past five months, I feel myself growing more toward my “true self.” This growth stems from being inspired by the gratitude of Jamaicans. Becoming more thankful for every little thing in my life has changed my outlook on myself, others, and my experiences. It has given me patience, understanding, compassion, and a genuine happiness. I thought I was a thankful person until I decided to live with the people of Jamaica for a year. They have taught me so much, and for that I am grateful. As I move forward into the new year I hope to continue learning and growing from the Jamaican faith. A faith rooted in gratitude. God has truly revealed God’s self to me through the Jamaican people.
*Pictured above is Courtney with Rita from Brae’s River