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Mission Monday: The Power of a Smile


New missioners Kitzi and Michael continue their Spanish studies at the Maryknoll Langauge Institute in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Today Kitzi shares about the friend she made on her walk to class.

“A smile is the shortest distance between two people” –Victor Borge

“I have a new friend in Bolivia and it all started because of a smile.

I may not necessarily wake up with a smile on my face, but my frown is soon turned upside-down by the thought of seeing my new friend on my way to school. Our interactions may last only a couple of seconds, but it is truly one of the most beautiful things that I am able to experience each day.

The more I walk the same streets of Cochabamba on my way to school, the more each face becomes one of familiarity and comfort. Senovia, on my second day of walking to school, was the first person to greet me with a great big smile and a “Buen Dia, Senorita” as I passed her. Only about four blocks from the Institute, Senovia sits on the same rock right next to the sidewalk that I hike every morning.

She is a street food vendor during the day on that same property. (I am honestly smiling writing this because just the thought of her puts this huge smile on my face and a permanent mark on my heart). Because of our smiles, each new day encourages the blossoming of an even deeper friendship. We may only have a few words to speak, but the warmth of her smile, the grasp of her hands on mine, and her kisses on both of my cheeks each day serve more than words ever could.

This past Friday, I was feeling extremely sick with a stomachache, a headache, and a low-grade fever as I faced my 25-minute walk to school. Stumbling up and down the cracked pavement on my way to school was horrendous. Frustrated, tired, and cold, I couldn’t think of a worse punishment for being sick that day. However, I was greeted with the most beautiful smile, strong hands, and kind eyes when I reached her perch, and sent off with a “Que te vayas bien. Vaya con Dios.”

I couldn’t help but continue to walk with my chin up and a big smile on my face as I continued to school. Although I was still physically and mentally run down throughout my classes, my spirit and heart were lifted to the sky.

The next morning my way to the Institute, trying to catch a Trufi (mini-bus) was a disaster — they kept passing me or taking off before I could get in. After a while, I was finally able to sneak in before it could take off down the Avenida. As I approached my corner stop, I looked to my right only to see Senovia looking up towards the street. I looked at her with a smile and waved to her from the Trufi, and she smiled and waved back. It is amazing how someone can make you feel so important and change your entire day around after being feeling so small and neglected on the streets of a new city.

These next two weeks, my classes start earlier so I have to take a different route to the Institute. Even though I don’t walk by her rock anymore, I have the Trufi driver drop me off further from the Institute just so I can greet Sunovia in the morning. I’ve also started stopping by to greet her after my classes, as well.

What a beautiful, beautiful woman I am blessed to know.”

To read more about Kitzi’s mission in Bolivia, see her blog, The Trials and Triumphs of a Songwriter …serving in Bolivia

Kitzi served as a lay missioner in Cochabamba, Bolivia from 2012-2014. During her three years on mission she worked with teenage girls at the Madre de Dios shelter and at the Instituto de Terapia e Investigación (Institute of Therapy and Investigation) to accompany people who had experienced torture under the Bolivian dictatorships. Originally from Northern California, Kitzi is a graduate of St. Francis High School in Sacramento and Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where she earned a bachelor's in psychology in 2011. She is currently in graduate school at Santa Clara University.