St Augustine is quoted as saying that “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future” and it is in the possibility of change… of being transformed by grace through the love of a community, that is our hope as we all struggle through this earthly life towards eternity.
Those living on the streets of Manila who have been abandoned and cast out by society, left feeling unloved, unwanted and who often turn to an array of vices just to ease the pain of life are finding a reason to hope again through the efforts of the workers at the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Foundation and of its founder Fr Flavie.
Welcomed into the center, with an opportunity to wash, receive clean clothes and eat well is just the beginning. They can pick-up their education through the alternative learning system and gain spiritual formation and healing through counseling and an understanding ear. Although often a long process, not without failures, many emerge with a renewed heart and a new vision for their future.
Many have left the streets and found work through partnerships with local businesses in the construction industry; one HIV+ patient now lives in a shelter where he works in their office. Another man is on his way home now, to a distant province to be reunited with his waiting family after 20 years on the streets, reconciled with the father at last, as he brings home a new faith and hope. Imagine that reunion for a moment, after so long, after so many trials and loneliness and the pain of separation. If it sounds like a Gospel story: it is.
An insight shared with me was a very simple but important one. A man was given a birthday party at the center. He was 43 years old, and was very touched because this was the first time he had been celebrated, the first birthday party he ever had. It was a new beginning too.
People who wind up on the streets have had very difficult lives and often very traumatic and dehumanizing experiences, often deprived of love and care that we all need, to thrive.
Remember them. Understand them. Reach out to them.