By Claudia Lorena Juárez
My Heart jumped when I saw her. She frightened me. I had studied to work with deaf children, now I found myself in an institution working with children with a diverse array of incapacities. The first thing that shocked me about her was the size of her head. Her eyebrows were thick and unruly and made her look perpetually aggressive. Her arms were deformed, and she wouldn’t stop crying.
I tried to hide my state of panic from her. I had come to this school with the intentions of saving the world, and now Macarena, only 12 years old, revealed to me a reality that was much more complex than I had ever imagined. My ideals of social justice, inclusion, equal opportunities all expressed themselves in the drops of sweat that were pouring from my whole body.
Weeks went by. I do not know what form of miracle occurred that kept me from running away from that place. But over time, Macarena didn’t frighten me any more, and at least her outbursts of wanting to hit and bite me became less and less frequent.
Time went by and we slowly got to know one another more. And this process of knowing one another brought us to love one another. There weren’t any magic recipes, but rather a special portion of grace. Things changed as we spent more time together, listening to each other, and having fun together in the routine activities of our days at school. When Maqui, that is what I started calling her, had a crying episode, I hugged her and they would pass more quickly. Our bodies become more familiar with each other and physical tenderness became the best form of communication. Jesus was teaching me to look at her in the eyes. Those intentional looks of love, revealed that I valued and respected her. Maqui often said to me, “Sing to Maqui ´Make my heart happy!´”, a song by Fito Paez says…
“its the one thing I ask of you today,
and you will soon see that the shadows of yesterday will disappear,
and that we won’t need anything more than that”.
That was her clear and undeniable request.
Love pushed away the fear that I initially felt. My eyes came to understand her appearance. Her big head and deformed arms were hers, my beloved Maqui. Her cries diminished and I believe that my love for her was a part of her relief. God helped me to see a beautiful, whole person, to care for and to receive love from. He brought Maqui into my life to help me learn more about God’s love and His mission among human kind. I wanted to help make Maqui´s life better in the name of the Lord and it ends up we were both saved by the inclusion that comes straight from the heart of God. Without me knowing it, from the very start, God put Maqui in my life. I understood that my own initial fears came from our society which marginalizes the weak, stereotypes the beautiful and classifies things and people as bad, when they really aren’t bad. God, through Maqui, helped me to see through His eyes all the good that is in the world.
One morning, two years into my life at the institute, Maqui´s health deteriorated rapidly due to a heart condition. She died three days after being hospitalized. I tried but was unable to say goodbye to her before she passed away. I still regret that to this day. But, even though the Lord brought her into His presence, in a lot of ways Maqui is still with me. The love that we shared will connect us for eternity.
A few days ago I dreamed of her. She was running and jumping all around me. Maqui was laughing so much in the dream that she got me smiling and laughing as well…
Lorena is a Special Education Teacher. She is a member of the Iglesia Evangélica Bautista de Constitución where she leads the Christian Education Ministry.