At times it feels that our world has become like a Darwinian model of “survival of the fittest.” I sense a level of indifference to the plight of many of the “lesser” among us. It reminds me of the elephant who crushes the little chick that happens to walk the same road––only the strongest increases his way. Meanwhile, many people dismiss this phenomenon by declaring, “Such is life,” as if to say there is nothing we can do.
The Gospel messages are explicit:
“And his commandment is this: we sho
uld believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.” (1John 3:23)
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)
Mama Clotilde is a retired member of our parish in Yaounde, Cameroon who has rightfully captured our attention. She is an exceptional woman who is living these Gospel messages, tirelessly extending her maternal warmth to the poor, uneducated, and desperate children of our parish.
Mama Clotilde: Incarnation of God's Love
I see Mama Clotilde as being motivated by Jesus. She is the pure incarnation of God’s love, paying special attention to the marginalized of our society. She manifests the Good News that Jesus brought to the world: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
By volunteering her time and attention for these needy children, Mama Clotilde is not merely accomplishing a kind act; she is expressing deep love and compassion from the bottom of her heart. In her unique way, according to her abilities, she wants to share the best that she has with these young victims of poverty and abandonment: a basic education. She believes that ignorance is more harmful than material poverty. She knows that the lack of basic language and math literacy is like a prison sentence for the young. And she is doing her part to free these lesser among us to enjoy a future with hope.
That which should be an inalienable right for every child––a basic formation––is a dubious proposition for many. There are numerous reasons that these children haven’t had the opportunity to go to school. Some are orphaned, some are victims of irresponsible or addicted parents, and some are simply too poor for the school fees.
Mama Clotilde wants to give them the opportunity to be able to defend themselves in the human jungle that is society today. Each time I pass by the small room that is their makeshift classroom, I am impressed by the smile and joy she displays in sharing her care and her expertise.
She is the personification of Saint Paul’s assertion of more joy in giving than receiving. Mama Clotilde reminds me of the parable of the talents. She has taken the gifts entrusted to her by God and has been a good and faithful servant by putting them to work, to multiply and gain. Indeed, we have all received something from God to fructify.
We Are All Called to Respond to the Needs of Those Around Us
We do honor our Christian calling when we are conscious and responsive to the needs of those around us. The concrete and palpable relief Mama Clotilde brings to our poor children is precisely a release from the prison of ignorance. She understands that the judgment of the Supreme Judge will focus on acts of love we pose every day for our brothers and sisters. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
While we can readily identify with those first lines of the scripture message from Matthew, it may be harder to remember and fully contemplate the remainder of the text, which reads in part: “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45)
I see a profound lesson from Mama Clotilde. She did not have to volunteer to help these children. She did not have to spend hours in the hot, cramped space of a nine by nine foot room to do so. She did not need to tax herself physically in her retirement. She was not obliged to share her heart as well as her knowledge. But Mama Clotilde refused to say of these children, “Such is life.” She refused to “not do” for them, and in turn, Jesus. We are grateful and encourage her example of love for one another.
You Must Offer What You Can
The children mentioned here are just a small portion of the many kinds of suffering and desperate, marginalized people we encounter in Yaounde and other African towns and villages. What can we do? One thing is clear, we must be realistic and work within the resources we have. So rather than “not doing” for the least among us, we try to focus our attention on the small things we can manage: perhaps a more suitable space for Mama Clotilde to continue working with, and taking on more, children? We hope to achieve this, God willing.
Each of us certainly has something to give to others. We only need to think about it. It may be as simple as a smile, our interest, kind words, or some of our time. These gifts truly can and do contribute to a better world, for us all. God bless your kindness to our mission endeavors.
This story was originally published in Missionhurst Magazine. For the complete article, along with many others, check out our most recent edition of Missionhurst Magazine.