The sun rises later here in San Benito than in Chicago … just before 7:00 a.m. During my early morning walks, I watched the clouds overhead turn pink and the haze over the grass disappear. The shelter’s two friendly dogs, Hannah and Capu, happily joined me on my walks.
One day during my visit, we received at least 50 pounds of tomatoes which I transferred to various refrigerators. We also received two crates of limes which Sister Margaret Mertens, CDP who was filling in for Sister Zita during her respite, turned into an English lesson with all the residents slicing and squeezing them to make limeade. I had to run to the store to buy more lime presses because the lemon presses we had were too big!
Before and after dinner, the women and I would make earrings and bracelets. I taught the clients (men and women) to use “knifty” knitters (round looms with pegs I bring every year) to make hats, scarves and ponchos. The men made it a sport by challenging each other saying, “You won’t catch up to me! I am beating you!” It was fantastic. One Friday morning, while taking a break from teaching, eight clients and I sat together knitting and showing the new arrivals (both men and women) how to do it. I also brought sacks with markers so clients could decorate them.
It has been very hot –the temperature averaging 100 degrees or more each day. On a 101 degree day, we took all bed clothes (mattress covers, blankets, sheets, pillows) and towels from the women’s dorm off to the lavanderia … the laundromat. All of the women came with me to help and learn how to use the washers and dryers. We cooled off with frozen berry drinks in a fast food place one parking lot over.
Some mornings I taught the newer clients ESL (English as a Second Language) for two hours. One client was learning the alphabet. The others were happy to learn important phrases such as: I need a job. I am thirsty. I am cold. I need water. The time certainly flew by! Other mornings, we played hangman as the clients searched their vocabulary for words. I helped make dinner and answered the phone in the evenings while Sister Zita got money for clients leaving the next day or took clients to a nearby park to walk.
I also would find clothes, shoes and toiletries for newly arriving clients. I visited a local thrift shop with three clients that sold clothing by the pound! We needed small pants for women and medium shirts for men. We found about 10 of each. The shop is in a loft/old factory floor building and boy, was it hot in there! Our next stop was to a superstore for shoes and more yarn. Weary from the heat, we returned to La Posada to rest … until a family brought in a car trunk full of donated clothing. I sorted through half of it and when I was finished, the Texas heat got me again.
One evening, two women clients were sad and we talked for a while. The 19-year-old, fromHonduras, was missing her family; the other woman was worried, rightly so, about her mother who was imprisoned by the government for helping her daughter escape their country. Fortunately, they were in better spirits the next morning as we hung laundry out to dry after breakfast.
That evening, after it had finally cooled down and the breeze picked up, Sister Zita and I sat on the swing in the yard enjoying the quiet peace of each other’s good company. Amid that peace, I reflected on how special and sacred La Posada is to all who come here. No matter how much you give of yourself, you receive so much more in return … which is why I keep returning to La Posada.
~ Janet Marcus