This is the fifth part of a series about my travels in Mexico last summer, a trip that God used to teach me many lessons in love, humility, beauty, and wealth. If you missed the first four parts, click here.
I’m a talker–I always have been and I think that I always will be. I love the fine details in things, getting to know other people and hearing the voices of others. Naturally, I’ve always valued spoke words, feeling that without them we could never know such wonderful, intimate things of life. I was proved wrong when I went to Mexico this summer…
She came up beside me while I was framing and looked down at me, her big brown eyes fixed on my hands as I hammered unskillfully at the nail in the wooden frame that was to be one of the walls of her new home. I noticed her gaze and I stopped hammering. From reading her name tag, I found that her name was “Besenta” but I was too shy to try to pronounce it so I just smiled and held out the hammer, offering her a turn at framing. It might seem like I was just trying to hand off my job to someone else and maybe I was, but the YWAM staff had said to let the family help out as much as possible. Soon I was wondering if I should have said something, though she probably wouldn’t have understood it, to let my motion be known. But I didn’t have to for she knew what I meant–there was no need for words.
Besenta took the hammer from me and bent over in a working position. She was short when standing, even shorter than my 5’2 frame and now she was even smaller. Her face was usually solemn and right now was no exception, though I could see a look of something different–of hope, pride, and of friendship shining through and I was glad that I had given her the hammer. I turned my eyes to the board that she was hitting and noticed how skillful she was for a beginner, if indeed she was a beginner like I fathomed at the time. In any event, she was a million times better than I was! Again, there was no need for words.
I pushed my paint brush harder into the bucket, in the hopes of spreading more of the meagre paint onto the house. I sighed as the measly paint barely showed on the wall that Besenta and I had framed earlier, feeling sure that this was the last of it though we still had a quarter of a wall left to cover. As I was thinking these thoughts, I noticed a person standing beside me–it was Besenta, a paint brush in hand and the same solemn but kind expression lighting her brown face. I smiled at her and said “Gracias”, accepting her help fondly. She, on the other hand, remained silent, simply dipping her brush into the last bit of paint for there was no need for words.
We painted for what seemed like a decade as we both had difficulty scraping up the last of the paint and making it spread on the wood while stretching our short arms upwards. During this time, I tried to strike up a conversation with Besenta, feeling unnatural without some chatter coming from my lips. Finally, after much contemplation on what she would find interesting that I could also say in Spanish, I uttered shyly, in my Canadian interpretation of the language–“Tres hermanos?” (I was trying to ask if she had 3 children.) She shook her head “Cuatro.” “Oh.” I replied awkwardly, smiling and blushing violently. I think that I was about to say cool when I realized that wasn’t really fitting even if she did understand English! To cover my embarressment, I began painting again, wishing desperately that I hadn’t ruined things. I saw Besenta’s brown hand reach up with her wet, blue paint brush and cover another blank spot. I looked back down at the near empty paint can and then my mind drifted to the house with the make-shift, tarp roof that stood behind us, the house that Besenta and her family of eight had been using for the last year. Suddenly, I felt the perseverance, and encouragement of the moment and with that I realized that there was no need for words.
“Ouch!” I cried. After I had been informed that there was indeed more paint, I had taken off down the little hill to where one of the YWAM staff stirred a bucket of the coveted blue paint. However, my enthusiasm was altered when I stumbled and fell, cutting myself on a sharp rock. The blood was oozing out of my knee and slowly I got up and started to stagger towards the First Aid Kit which I knew to be nearby. Feeling a nudge at my shoulder, I halted. I looked up to see Besenta–a look of genuine concern and love showing on her face. I smiled, despite my pain and she opened the first aid kit and found a bandage for me. Tenderly, she wiped my knee off and bandaged the cut, just like a beloved friend, just as my mother who was two countries away from me at the moment, would have done. I smiled my thanks, and she returned my grin with a comforting look–there was no need for words.
So often we think that language must be spoken to be understood, to be relevant, and to matter but Besenta taught me otherwise during those two days of building. Yes indeed, there are times to be silent, times when not saying anything can be relevent and will matter. In fact, there are even times, like the one that I just described when there is no need for words–our actions say it all.
Besenta (far right) with two of her children and me.
- Part 2: Filled (elizabethsjourneyhome.wordpress.com)