Editor’s note: Missioner Amanda Ceraldi shares how she has found a deep, inspiring example of what it means to be our brother’s keeper in the lives and actions of her students at Valley of the Angels.
Juan* was sitting at the table crying. Tears streamed down his face from his bloodshot eyes. He tried wiping away the tears as they flowed, but there were too many to make any progress. As I looked on at Juan from across the room, I began walking toward his table. I had planned on sitting down next to him, giving him a hug, and doing what I could to comfort him. Before I could get there, I watched as four other boys surrounded him, wiped away his tears, hugged him, and made him laugh.
Jesus* took a major hit at the boys’ soccer game. Cleated in the ankle, he fell to the mud-soaked ground, shouting in pain. For five minutes, he laid there unable to move. I felt helpless: what could I do other than watch as he tried to stand? But the other boys on the team ran to his side to see what was wrong. When he couldn’t walk on his own, they picked him up, put him on their back, and carried him to the bench.
Charlie* has always needed a little extra time to complete his homework. The answers don’t come to him as fast as some of the other kids in his class. He struggles to read and often confuses the numbers in his math problems. He misses out on playing soccer with the kids after school because it takes him double the amount of time to finish his assignments. But without fail, Edgar* will give up his free time playing outside to make sure that Charlie understands and completes his work.
Hand-in-hand, two by two, I watch as the boys at Valley walk to Mass every Sunday morning. I hear echoes of boys saying, “he’s my son,” “I love him,” and “we’re best friends.” In these moments, I can’t help but smile, to be proud of these boys that have become like my sons.
When Cain responded to the Lord in Genesis, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” we learn that caring for our brothers and sisters is something that we can question. But what happens when we don’t question that care and love? What happens if we look at our brothers like they are inherently worthy and loved? I think what happens in these moments is we remember that we are living bodies of Christ, deeply rooted and connected to the humanity of those who surround us.
The boys at Valley of the Angels have fully embraced what it means to be our brother’s keeper, to care, and to love deeply. They remind me every day what it means to walk hand-in-hand with another person, to love unconditionally.
Reflection question: Are we living witnesses of what it means to be our brother’s keeper? How can we practice daily care and love of our friends, coworkers, and neighbors?
* Names have been changed to respect the individuals.