Revisiting Cottolengo (Mukha-Ad Level II-Exposure I)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 Nicajoice 0 Comments

My visit to Cottolengo Filipino two Sundays ago was not my first. At around the same time last year, I (with the rest of Batch 21 and Mukha-Ad staff and council) had the opportunity to spend half a day with very special children. 365 days apart, my recent visit still evokes the same emotions I had the first time - feeling of gratitude for the fact that we are all loved by God despite our inadequacies, physical or in character and that we are all under the mercy of God, He who is ever generous. I am humbled by the children's resilience to live life to the full even if from an outsider's perspective, their world is never perfect - while I, on one hand, live life as if I'd never have enough.

I admit that my initial encounter with the children rendered me vulnerable to that troubling feeling that I was (at that time) not capable of showing love and care in their truest form. And because I am too emotional, I was even afraid that I'd just make them upset if they see me cry over their situation. For who can bear to see children suffer? I didn't know how to deal with them, I didn't know what to feel - perhaps the reasons why I never put this in writing. It was in fact, my initiation to a world I never bothered to take a second look. It was also the unfamiliarity to the circumstances surrounding the children that made me feel inadequate for them.

That day, a year ago, I took care of Matthew. A boy in such a dainty frame. He was too small he had to be placed in a stroller, also because he couldn't walk. I had to adjust his sitting position once in a while so he wouldn't fall. We walked for an hour (rather, I pushed his stroller for an hour). He couldn't talk but I had the feeling that he understood the words I was saying for at times, he would smile - and it was such a brilliant smile. At one point, I heard him humming. It was a song I couldn't recognize but it made him more endearing. Beyond words, he made me feel that he was grateful and enjoying that moment.

On my recent visit (January 22, 2012), I was a bit worried that I wouldn't see him there again. I guess it was natural that I look for him in particular. I was glad because when I caught sight of him and when he saw me he flashed that ever brilliant smile - as if he knew who I was. As if he remembered.

So, I took his stroller and we moved around the place. I was glad because he looked healthier than the last time I saw him. He looked a bit bigger too. And I didn't have to be wary of his sitting position and he seemed to have gained control of his head. He was more enthusiastic. He would point to where he wanted to go. He would smile when people say "Hi" to him. I showed him a video of my niece on my cellphone and he looked at it intently and laughed when he heard the little girl on the video laugh. We took pictures together and he smiled when I showed him the photos - he knew it was him and me. He also loved it when I made him listen to the songs on my phone. One hour was too short.

Matthew is just one of the several children who found shelter in Cottolengo. Others have more complicated physical conditions and state of mind. But they are all children who needs nurturing, who needs time to play, who needs people to be their hands and feet because there are things they cannot do on their own. Most of all, they need love - love as we know it - free from judgment and full of patience.

They love it when people visit them. One hour means so much more to them than we could ever imagine. That's the time that they feel really special, because the world stops, and for a while they solely have our attention.

I guess, we have learned so much more from them that day. Their simplicity is true wisdom. Listening to them, watching them, was a learning experience. For one, I have seen goodness in several forms - goodness shown by caregivers as they tirelessly take good care of the children; the batch 22 participants who mingled with the kids as if they've known each other for a long time, acting as big brothers and big sisters to them for a day; the children themselves showing concern to one another; the priest who is behind Cottolengo who never refuses a child in need; the people used by God to make the daily sustenance of the shelter possible; and God, who is above all the great provider.

It is my prayer that more and more people will see the need to extend help to the children of homes like Cottolengo. If you'd take a second look, you'd see how wonderful they are. And how a visit can influence them positively, how it can brighten up their day, how it can change their lives; and influence, brighten up and change yours.

If you wish to help,
Visit Cottolengo Filipino website, here.
or Like Cottolengo's Facebook Page.