Yesterday, for the second time in a week, I heard someone say, “I can’t.”
Yesterday, after the rite of election with the catechumens, a few catechists and I went with them to a meeting room on the church grounds.
I talked about the temptations of Jesus and mentioned how we are all tempted. We handed out small sheets of paper and I asked the newly elect to write or draw a temptation that young people experience. Later they would place them on the floor in the shape of a cross.
As I went through the crowd, encouraging them to write or draw, I came across a young man who wasn’t doing anything. He told me he couldn’t read or write. He was not the only young person there would couldn’t; I’d guess there were at least five of the eighty-one who were illiterate.
I urged him to draw something. “No puedo,” he told me. I can’t.
Instead of pushing the point, I told him just to put a line on the paper. I wish I had more time to encourage him to try, knowing that he would probably be able to draw something.
Such a sense of powerlessness grieves me deeply.
I talked with him as we left the meeting hall to get back to the church for the end of Mass. He works on his family’s farm – with corn and beans. They had coffee, but it was ruined by the roya fungus; they have planted some on their half a manzana; but that won’t provide a harvest for three years.
How can we accompany these young people who feel so powerless, who feel they cannot even draw – just because they cannot read or write?
How can we accompany these people who feel so powerless in the face of a fungus that destroys what is one of their few sources of cash?
How can we accompany these people who feel so much at the mercy of those who have wealth and power?
How can we help them find hope and realize that they can?