Jamaican Promise

Raquel Taught Me a Lesson about Sloth

I met Raquel one spring day in Kingston, Jamaica. She was a resident at a home for girls who were wards of the state. These young ladies had been taken from their families because of sexual abuse. Raquel sat in a room with her friend Emily.

The room was lit only by the outside light coming in through the glassless windows. It was filled with tables, chairs, and three sewing machines. I asked Raquel and Emily if they knew how to sew. Emily answered in the affirmative and continued by telling me that they made the clothes for the younger girls in the home. I asked Raquel and Emily how old they were. Emily answered that they were both thirteen. Raquel had not said a word since I entered the room. She only looked at me with untrusting eyes. I asked Raquel if she had made the clothes she was wearing. Emily answered, “No.” I asked Emily if Raquel could speak. Raquel then whispered, “Yes.” I sat down and began a conversation with the girls.

After about half an hour, Raquel was giving more than one-word interjections into the conversation. As I was leaving, I took a picture of Raquel and Emily. Emily smiled from ear to ear and Raquel only gave the same untrusting look. I began to walk away and Raquel pulled me back. “Will you write to me?” she asked. I said, “I would be honored, but I must ask for permission from the director of the home.”

Raquel took my hand and walked me straight to the director. She introduced us. I asked the director if I could write to Raquel. She granted the permission. Raquel wrote her address on a piece of paper and handed it to me. As I parted she said, “Please write. Don’t be like other people who only come and visit, and then we never hear from again.” I promised her I would write, and she smiled. The look of mistrust had left her eyes. The director of the house informed me that was the first time Raquel had smiled in months.

When I returned to the United States, I looked for the piece of paper with Raquel’s address to send a letter I had written to her from the airplane. I could not find the piece of paper. I felt bad, but I knew I could find the address by contacting the agency that initially had connected me with the home. I put off contacting the agency until the next day. That next day turned into the next week, the next month, and then never.

It has been seven years since I made the promise to Raquel. It has been seven years since I broke that promise to Raquel. I broke the promise not out of lack of concern but out of laziness. It’s been seven years that I became another “one of those people who only visited and was never heard from again.”

I wonder who or what made Raquel smile next. I wonder where she is today, what she is doing, who she is becoming. I wonder who else has been hurt because someone made a promise and never fulfilled it because of the evil of sloth (laziness). Sometimes the deadliest of sins come with the best of intentions and the lack of action.