Pride pulsated through my veins, turning me into a third-grader with Attention Deficit Disorder as I anticipated the inauguration of the Casa Acogida (“Hospitality House”). The house is a project that was four years in the making—an alternative to the substandard rooms (wooden walls and dirt floors) that elderly adults who come to my center often call home. Full of vivid colors and intricate ornaments, the house is a refurbished beauty that ten abuelos will eventually call their own. The only missing aspect of the project is a non-elderly resident in charge of the daily routine of the new community.
The Hogar de Cristo (“Christ’s Home“), the social service agency where I work, is the largest of its kind in Chile and has a sterling reputation of treating the poorest of the poor with the love they deserve. As a social worker, my primary concern for the elderly adults who belong to my center is their wellbeing. Most of the abuelos receive a small pension that covers very basic expenses, forcing them to rent rooms with shocking living conditions. The majority do not have contact with their families, either, so they have no other options. The Casa Acogida, therefore, is a shining new example of hope.
My North American sensibilities were running rampant before the inauguration ceremony. Two days before, a particularly stubborn chicken bone had lodged itself into my boss’s throat, forcing her to spend the night in the hospital. Therefore I spent the following day rushing around attempting to finalize details of which I wasn’t really sure. Why was I the only one concerned when we arrived an hour before the ceremony completely unprepared? Eventually, however, I recognized that everything would be perfect because if God had brought us this far, God would certainly be with us now.
The ceremony was a beautiful acclamation of all that we had accomplished. Pride and anticipation permeated the air as each person felt a portion of ownership, a sense that the house belonged to the community, not just the Hogar de Cristo. I am confident that my elation about the house will remain with me throughout the coming year and help me maintain my sense of wonder at what a people united can achieve.