Editor’s Note: In the second installation of her four part “Beams of Love” series, missioner Amanda Ceraldi shares how her time spent with one of her students in the hospital challenged her to set her own comfort aside in order to take care of her student.

“We are put on earth for a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love.” –William Blake

I walked into the hospital pretty unsure of what I was about to get myself into. A girl who couldn’t have been any older than me was going back to see her son and accompanied me to the pediatric ward. When I walked into the room I was overwhelmed by the chaos in front of me.

The 30-bed room was full with kids hooked up to machines and IVs. Breakfast was being served, but there were no utensils to be found. The nurses looked just as confused as the parents, kids were crying, and I had no idea how I would make it through the next 12 hours.

I was at the hospital to stay with one of my students, Maria. I’ve known Maria and her family since my first days at Valley. She is a sweet yet sassy, joyful but mischievous 8-year old little girl, so it was out of the ordinary when she was sleeping during my class one day. The next day I found out that Maria had been admitted to the hospital for pneumonia and severely low kidney function. When it came to deciding who would take turns staying with Maria in the hospital, I was more than willing to take as many shifts as were needed.

Maria

Maria

During my two 12-hour shifts I was witness to things I could have never imagined. I quickly learned that I would be responsible for feeding Maria, taking her to the bathroom, giving her all of her medicines, and keeping her occupied when she couldn’t leave the bed she laid in. In the time that I was at the hospital I was responsible as her caretaker in every way imaginable and I wasn’t sure I could handle that responsibility.

It didn’t take long for me to remember that being at the hospital wasn’t about me or my comfort; I was there to “bear the beams of love” for Maria. Bearing those beams of love meant playing games and coloring all day to keep Maria distracted; it meant dealing with cockroaches crawling all over the floor, broken beds, and one shared toilet that wouldn’t flush for 20 kids and their parents; and it meant questioning the nurses when they wanted me to be in charge of Maria’s IV medications.

Bearing the beams of love meant not sleeping during my overnight shift because I needed to use all of my energy to hold and calm Maria as she convulsed and cried out in pain for hours.

I was at that hospital for 24 of the most difficult hours of my life, but those two 12-hour shifts allowed me to create a little space for Maria—to love her, to care for her, to accompany her during some of the most difficult days of her young life, and to bear the beams of love for her.

Reflection Question: In moments of discomfort or suffering, do you notice the others around you who may need a kind presence even more than you?