This is a reprint of “Good News," the weekly reflection written by Campus Ministry staff and students that was distributed at Sunday Masses Feb. 27 at the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas.
By Tricia Nutter
I pushed and shoved my way through the crowded market praying that no one would pick my pocket and laughing ironically that God was probably the only one who could understand my language. I scanned the road looking for any way out of the labyrinth of people spread out before me. I almost ran smack into an indigenous woman but she saved me with her simple pitch, “dos mil.” She was selling pieces of plastic and as I looked up at the sky I realized it was just about to downfall. I quickly paid the Qeqchua woman for the “plastico,” thanked the Lord for my good fortune, and continued my struggle. I reached shelter just as the storm began. Mass chaos erupted on Ipiales Street as people rushed to find shelter from the pouring rain and the roads became rivers of mud and garbage. The rainy season in Ecuador — what a dreary time!
“Buenos dias” said an older woman standing next to me. I took stock of my surroundings and found myself in a small market stall with a woman selling sandals. I smiled at her, the opening of a floodgate of sales pitches. As I rushed to tell her I was only a student looking for a place to hide out until the rain slowed, she realized that I did not intend to buy anything. We eased into conversation about the market and I discovered that the open-air shopping nightmare spread for eight blocks and spilled into downtown Quito. Any product a person could possibly need was sold and at “the best deal in town.” Most of the products are probably stolen goods from Colombia or discards/rejects of department stores. The vendors are the poor, working classes.
I asked her why she was selling sandals during the rainy season, the coldest season of the year. She began to talk to me about her troubles, the realities she sees everyday. She sells sandals because she cannot put forward enough money to sell anything else. Her husband used to work in the “sierra” highlands as a farmer and grazer but the family could not afford to upkeep their land and were forced to move to the city. Her husband works at a “taller” doing woodwork and other handyman services but workers like him are many. Her family can barely afford to eat. Ipiales is a way to make a little extra money, but with the inflation rising so high in Ecuador the more she worked, the less her money was worth. She lives in downtown Quito in a one-bedroom, dilapidated apartment with her husband and four children. These low-cost housing units are built behind beautiful building fronts, a mask to hide the miserable poverty from the eyes of tourists. The family is lucky, however, that they have this home for most migrants to the cities live on the streets.
Our talk that rainy winter afternoon will stay with me forever. Though Ofelia lives in Quito and I in St. Paul, we share a similar existence and faith. We both want to be the best daughter, mother, friend, community member, Christian that we can be. I may never face a poverty like hers, and now I know that it is not her fault. If my friends and family members in the United States could have seen the hope on her face even as the words spilled from her lips, they would have seen their own plight in her eyes. Yet, we don’t know, we are not aware of the problems people like Ofelia fight everyday. For if we did, there would be no stopping the unity we would find together in the same body of Christ.
Well, this is the Jubilee Year. People spout the idea that it is a time for hope and a chance to build solidarity among all world citizens. The Gospel calls us to avoid sewing a piece of unshrunken cloth onto an old cloak for if we do, “its fullness pulls away the new from the old, and the tear gets worse” (Mark 2: 18-22). This is a new millennium, a fresh new season for our Church. We can no longer stand back and let the world happen without our participation. This “old” way of doing things has only worsened the tear between us and our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Instead, let us pour new wine, new spirit and energy, into the fresh wineskins of our hearts and work for peace and solidarity between all peoples. This is why the Church is calling us to action — working for the forgiveness of Third World Debt, keeping accountable U.S. businesses for their activities in other countries, and desiring to support others to gain access to the things they need. Help Ofelia, and all those like her, to be able to live in their own communities without the desperate worry of an insolvable situation. Join the world in its struggle for newness. Welcome to the Jubilee!