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The Light of One: “My Abuelito”


Continuing our daily Advent reflection series, current missioner Kitzi Hendricks writes about the nourishing kindness of a man she calls “abuelito”.

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

Abuelito is the type-writer mechanic I used to pass by every day on my way to work at my old service site, Madre Dios. I call him “abuelito” (grandfather) and he calls me “reina” (queen). Whenever I see him, he calls out “Reina! La reina está aquí!” and if anyone else is with me, he explains that I am their “reina” and they are my family.

After a relatively difficult day of service, I wasn’t in the mood for conversation, but I put a smile on and made my way over to his workshop just to say hello. He saw me and made the biggest smile. He immediately stopped his work, gave me a huge hug and proceeded to the nearest bakery to purchase empanadas, queques and tea to share with me, without me even saying a word. The other mechanic was asked to stop his work for a moment so that we could all share a little meal together.

He took my hands, held them close to him, and said that he had been so worried about me, since I hadn´t been able to come and visit him for a few weeks. He looked straight into my eyes and told me that he was glad that I was alright. I almost cried. After struggling through the afternoon at work, I was considering walking out of my way just so I didn´t have to pass by his workshop.

“Abuelito” with Kitzi

When I finally talked myself out of that idea, there was my abuelito, waiting to give me the warmest welcome and kindest smile that I didn´t even know I needed at the time.

We have known each other for almost two years now, but I don´t even know his real name. It just doesn’t seem that important. What always captures my spirit are the smiles, the looks in his eyes, the tender touches of our hands, and the heart that is behind each of these beautiful exchanges.

This is just one of the many beautiful relationships that get me through the day, that empower me to continue my service and who in turn serve me. They are my biggest supporters, and they deserve so much credit for keeping my spirits high, and my heart in the right place. They are my Bolivian family.

Coming up tomorrow: “The Mother Teresa of El Salvador” by Beth Riehle!

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.