Bolivian elder living out compassion and forgiveness
The experience of having been hurt by others is, sadly, not an uncommon part of the story of many elderly people who live in poverty. Being poor carries with it great vulnerability and it only increases with age.
Many endure their hurts with grace and even learn to forgive. Those who find it within themselves to not only forgive, but actually reach out in compassion to the people who’ve wronged them, inspire us.
Julia, 68, lives in Bolivia. She married her husband, Dionicio, when she was young, after knowing him only one month. At first their life together was good. He worked hard as a bricklayer’s assistant and was a good provider for Julia and their children.
Then things began to change.
“Dionicio turned into a bad person,” Julia said. “He was impatient and abusive. He would leave for two or three months [seemingly to work] while I had to find a way to feed our children.”
Then the short abandonments turned into what Julia assumed was a permanent one.
“My husband left me a long time ago. He left our children, and I walked alone. I washed clothes to at least feed my children. My husband abandoned us. He disappeared and I never knew more about him.”
Never, that is, until Dionicio returned four years ago.
“He says he returned for his children,” Julia said. “He says he missed them. He begged me for forgiveness. I forgave him because he is very sick.”
Dionicio was indeed sick. He had suffered from a series of health issues, including gall bladder disease and diabetes. The illnesses took their toll on Dionicio and he now requires a great amount of care.
Julia was moved by his situation.
“I felt compassion for him. I felt his pain. He may have hurt me and my children but I forgave him. Forgiving from the heart is difficult when that person has caused so much pain, but I did it. I saw him skinny and sick and I felt compassion.”
Part of what allowed Julia to reach out in compassion to her husband was the support provided through her Unbound sponsorship. Sponsored since 2008 by Catherine from Maryland, she is deeply grateful for what she receives.
“I was in need of help. I went to the Unbound office and told them my story, and they listened. They took my picture and signed me up. I waited four months to get a sponsor. I was very happy and I cried of joy. Now I get food supplies, a bed, pillows, cooking pans and many other things. I thank the staff and my sponsor for everything. Everything that I receive I treasure.”
Julia channels her appreciation into a desire to serve. She sees her care of Dionicio as part of the call of her faith.
“I am here to help him because I believe that God wants everyone to live with dignity. I do it for the love of God, because ‘what you do with the little ones you do it to me’, says the Lord.
“Because this is what the Lord requires if we aspire to enter his kingdom. Because everyone has the ability to help someone else, even if you think that you don’t have much.”