Published as "Easter spirit shines thorugh children's smiles in slum, " March 31, 2013, Bangkok Post, Spectrum Section
By Father Joe Maier
She crones that ancient children's lament, ''Auntie of the Moon'', over and over. Eight-year-old Miss Phae can't talk clearly – only babbles – and her tongue goes in all different directions. Yet her best friend, nine-year-old Miss Phon understands perfectly when Miss Phae sings, ''Please find me a kind granny for my little sister and a kind granny who loves me too.''
And crippled Momma Shrimp also understands, as do her gaggle of 17 kids (three, four, five and six year olds) whom she watches over. They all chant along, and it's the sound of angels, all singing about the beautiful Auntie Moon who finds a loving granny for abandoned children. Miss Phae improvises sometimes: ''Dear Auntie Moon: please send my little sister some tasty rice and a nice ring – and a chair for her to sit on, and a cosy bed for her to sleep on and even a pony or an elephant to ride.''
And we all believe Miss Phae's lament is inspired by the Easter Moon, when Jesus rose from the dead, and showed us that, in the end, the bad guys lose and the good guys win.
Maybe, just maybe, this eight-year-old babbling girl is an angel spirit of one of the ancients sent from heaven to us, like one of the saints who give up heaven for a while and come back to Earth for a short time to speak not of doom, but of joy and a better world tomorrow. If you've ever heard her, it's easy to believe that Miss Phae is an ancient angel spirit, a ''keeper of the song''.
At Easter time we journey back through the sacred living history of the world-changing events in the life of Jesus. We teach our children of our faith through stories and legends and by dramas, rituals and ceremonies.
This is Holy Week, and I’d like to share a few moments of mercy with our friends from around the world.
Our new children:
First, before everything else: five children joined our Mercy family this month. Our children always come first! We have never turned away a poor child in need and never will.
Nong Bhoey, age three, has lived in children’s shelters most of her young life. Her mom did not like her previous shelter and had her moved to Mercy because we are gentler and more caring. Not surprisingly, since Nong Bhoey is used to living in shelters, she is adjusting well. That is, she doesn’t feel lost or lonely the way most new Mercy kids do. In her first day, she examined and test-piloted every toy in our girls’ shelter and has rarely stopped playing since.
Nong Chew-wew (which loosely translates to “super peachy-keen”), a two-and-a-half-year-old girl, joined our Mercy family this past month because her mom, a trash-picker, simply could not care for her. At the end of every school day, when all the neighborhood mothers pick up their children at our Mercy Centre (Lock 6) kindergarten, Chew-wew is reminded that her mom is missing and cries rivers of tears.
When Nong Chew-wew cries, our older girls – her new big sisters – hug her and minister to her every need. Plus a few needs she doesn’t know she has - like dressing her up as a princess.
Our goal with Nong Chew-wew is to care for and educate her until her mom gets back on her feet. In the meantime, we count ourselves blessed to have her in our family.
Nong Sprite, age six, may never get to return to her parents. Her home situation was dangerous. Today she is going to school, making friends, and most important of all, she is healing.
Nong Pizza and Nong Peanut, sisters, ages 6 and 3, showed up on our doorstep this week with their father. Their mom recently died and their dad, who works as a day laborer at various construction sites, cannot take care of them right now. Both girls cried a lot their first day, the older one first, then the younger one because her big sister was crying; but in a day or two, like all our Mercy children, the sisters will get up each morning determined to have as much fun as possible… and succeed! (Photo above, our new little ones from left to right: Nong Boey, Nong Pizza, Nong Sprite, Nong Peanut, and Nong Chew-Wew.)
What a glorious day at Mercy Centre! Today 532 slum children received their diplomas at our annual Mercy kindergarten graduation ceremonies.
This is definitely not a typical graduation ceremony. It’s more beautiful for one thing - also more riotous and just plain more fun.
Of course, there are moments of solemnity and pomp. Children wear ceremonial robes and caps. And I don my doctoral robes and present diplomas to each child. When every child has a diploma in hand, I congratulate and exhort the children to stay in school. By the end of the ceremony, the children are cheering together, "We will stay in school!"
These young graduates can feel the importance of the day.
The ceremony is also filled with childhood innocence and joy, accentuated by festoons of colored balloons, garlands of flowers wrapped in cartoon characters (notably Angry Bird, whoever he is?), and lots of make-believe stuff.
Moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles – the whole family joins in the celebration. We want our school children to remember this day for life!
Thank you so much for making this day more beautiful.