Peace Home is a center dedicated to people with multiple disabilities. It is composed of three large dormitories with about 30 beds each: for women, for men, and for children. From my first morning there, I was assigned to the one with 26 women. The day starts early and is well paced: the residents have to be washed, clothed, fed, changed and cleaning must be done, as well as the laundry and anything else these women need to live! They almost never leave their bed, so I must improvise as a nurse, waitress, linen maid, cleaning lady, and life aid.
During the first few mornings, I asked myself why I wanted to spend three months in this place. As the days went by, I understood the meaning of my mission: I still have everything to learn about life, of the lives of the women I take care of, but also those of the sisters who manage the home with such mastery.
Being content with necessities
From the moment I arrive there, I am amazed by the joyous atmosphere of the place… Some women have nothing but a bed and a rosary. And yet, in this dormitory, I have never felt such a joy of living. At Peace Home, one doesn’t want anything, but one is content with necessities: it is enough and brings happiness. A priest passing through told us, “We must not forget to admire at having two feet that carry us every day, what a joy, but especially what a chance!” Here, we are reminded each day!
I discover at what point I can be happy myself, while the daily life is not always easy, but this does not prevent the days from being rich and profoundly beautiful. In this place so far from my Parisian comfort, I am fulfilled. The people are the main reason for this. The patients are demanding, even too much so when they feel tired, but they are so endearing.
At first, the language is a great difficulty. Here, at Peace Home, we speak Malayalam, not English. I am curious and wish to understand everything. But no, I won’t know everything all at once. And, in the end, it matters little! I am there simply to give of my time. I am not asked to understand or do things my way, but to be there simply, and be there for the residents. Nothing more.
Letting go is essential
At Peace Home, I learned how precious the present moment is. We cannot talk of the past, I cannot guess what stories are hidden behind these faces that surround me and that I care for each day. But Lord knows how much I would like to know more. The future is closed to me as well. What will happen in one hour, I will discover at the given time, meaning in one hour. What remains? The gift that is the present. And that is enough. I’m learning the importance of the phrase “take your time”.
Accept the unexpected. That is what I am asked to do each day. When I wake up, I have no idea what surprises await me that day. Sometimes, it is the presence of the bishop at the morning mass, other times it is a simple “thank you” or a little help for the household chores! Letting go is not easy at first; but when we have no choice, we force ourselves and learn to make ourselves available as the days go by.
I cannot finish without telling you about the sisters who dedicate their entire lives in service of the poor and, through them, Jesus himself. They are right in everything they do: no unnecessary actions or caprices, but a look and attention that marks you. They shine in all they undertake. What a good fortune to live with them and learn from them. They are at Peace Home to live with sisters that they have not chosen and work with the least of this world. They never complain, they move forward with great confidence.
Yes, they are aided by young women from the poorer states in the north of India, who accomplish impressive work. Even though they are extremely courageous, many leave after one week. The goal is to make them stay longer. They are paid and can therefore save up a dowry. They are “safe”, as Simi Sister explained to me, and have nothing to worry about: they live on-site as well.
I am now convinced of one thing, and the most important besides, that all these women draw their strength from prayer. Without this life of daily prayer, everything falls apart. Through them, I have learned to kneel, and I sincerely thank them.
Alice B, volontaire MEP