Continuing our daily Advent reflection series, Katherine Menezes writes about a humbling encounter with a man and how whose memory continues to inspire her.

I was blessed to take part in an FMS trip to South Africa this past summer where I met someone known as “The Wire Man” in a craftsmen complex, a lure for tourists and an opportunity for artists. “The Wire Man” was one of the many Zimbabweans forced to leave their homes to live and work in South Africa.

I had just purchased a pair of beautiful bookends and a few pieces of jewelry for loved ones. I was completely out of cash. But, I was stopped by “The Wire Man” and ended up in a lovely conversation with him, despite my admittance that I had no money to spend. I told him I had fallen in love with South Africa and the idea of coming back to work with the HIV/AIDS community. He asked me what I did, and I told him I was about to embark on my medical career.

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What happened next brought me to tears. This man with five children living in a different country, struggling to make ends meet with his art form, took me to his tent and handed me a butterfly napkin holder that he had sculpted.

He looked at me and said, “I want to give you this token of my appreciation for the profession you have chosen, and the interest you have taken in the plight of South Africa. It is inspiring, and I wish you all the best. I’m sorry it is not so big.”

With wet eyes, I was able to formulate a “thank you” before being called to the van because my group was leaving.

To this day, that poignant memory takes my breath away. I wish I could have sat down with this man and learned more about him. I wish I could tell him that he is the inspiration, for following his passion of art and for working hard for his family despite the difficulty of being separated from them. I wish I could tell him that it is the least I can do, after all I have been privileged and blessed with, and that I hope one day I can make a difference through my work.

The butterfly napkin holder sits on the side-table next to my bed. I see it when I wake up and when I go to sleep. This man may not remember giving it to me, but it has become a symbol of my greater goals and purpose as a future physician. This advent season, I give thanks for my encounter with “The Wire Man” and I pray he is well.

Coming up tomorrow: “Marcelo” by Nora Pffeifer!

Katherine Menezes is a student at the Medical College of Georgia. She attended a short-term mission trip with Franciscan Mission Service.

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