It can be a daunting thing to see beauty when one is alone. Late yesterday afternoon I sat in the square in front of the parochia of San Miguel and watched the sun turn the pink stone into a spun sugar wedding cake. After 25 years of living alone, travelling alone, one would think I would be immune to the little jump of surprise at the beauty of the world. You know, the one that makes you turn and smile at the person next to you …
So instead I empty my purse of the coins I have and give them to a grandmother who holds out a brown and very hard hand. She is wearing an apron pieced together of many fabrics: plaids, stripes and flowers and a brilliant pink pocket. She looks into my eyes for a shy moment, dark eyes surrounded by a sea of wrinkles. Are you older than I am, I think.
I slip past a large group of young school children, first or second graders. I wonder why they are lined up two by two at the church door. But I have my own preoccupations.
As soon as I sit to calm myself for a moment of quiet reflection, the children burst into the church, singing, waving their arms, clapping. Someone up front is playing a guitar and I notice a priest standing down close to the front pews. All the children come and sit up front and their parents, grandparents and siblings sit back with me.
There is a lot of enthusiastic singing by the whole congregation and the priest speaks a few words, quietly and then he leads us in the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. He blesses the children and sends them off to find their families and in turn bless them. A little boy comes to his grandmother and tries to trace the sign of the cross on her. He makes a mistake and covers his face with his hands, giggling softly. It is a little hard as it is a mirror gesture of what the children usually do when they make the sign of the cross. She kisses his hands, chubby and innocent and sends him off to sit with his companions.
It is the second Wednesday of Lent and I suddenly realize that this must be the Communion Class. These children will receive first Communion around Easter time. Much as I rebel against bowing to pictures or statues, I think teaching children to bless others is a good lesson. This morning I showed, LIlly, the lady who cleans my apartment a video of the children singing and she confirmed that yes, it’s the preparation class. She blessed my sign language and crippled Spanish with her laughter. Doubly blessed.