Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Story

By Eric A. Clayton

The little boy’s name was Jésus. He was maybe nine years old and scrawny, with a head of brown hair and big curious brown eyes. He was fascinated by the camera I held in my hand.

“Puedo sacar fotos?” he asked. Can I take some photos?

I don’t usually part ways with my camera equipment. I rarely let my own kids touch it. But Jésus was so earnest, so genuinely curious in what I was doing and what he might learn about it, that I found myself quickly agreeing.

I handed my DSLR over with a few brief instructions, uttered in my broken Spanish. Look through this. Push this button. Careful now — keep it out of the rain.

Jésus gingerly took my camera, putting the strap around his neck, grasping the device with both hands. He suddenly became the most popular kid around, as 12 or so of his friends appeared, eager to see what he was up to. They wanted to have their pictures taken or perhaps make use of the device themselves.

Jésus appeased them at first. But the kid had a vision. He produced these two little toy cars from a pocket or a friend’s pocket and carefully placed them on the cement ground where the rain just barely reached them. He lined them up just so, crouched down and began snapping pictures.

“Mira,” he said, beckoning me to look at the tiny camera screen and review his work.

“Wow,” I said. “That’s really good. Muy buen trabajo.”

Jésus smiled, proud of himself, and then returned to his work.

I knew I would be deeply affected by my trip to the U.S.-Mexico border. How could I not be? A colleague and I were there just before Holy Week, visiting the Jesuits of Del Camino Jesuit Border Ministries. We accompanied them in their work as they visited migrant shelters on both sides of the border. Wherever they went, they said Mass and offered the sacraments.

As we traveled with these Jesuits, we heard the stories of those to whom they ministered. We met families who had fled violence and death, who had made impossible journeys in the hope that their children might have better, safer lives.

We heard their stories — and then we left. It wasn’t lost on me how easy it was for us to walk across that border. It wasn’t lost on me how long those women and men to whom we’d spoken might be waiting to do the same, how something that took us 20 minutes could take them months, maybe more.

These women and men applied for their turn and then waited and hoped.

And yet, of the many moments that have remained with me from that trip, the clearest, most poignant one is Jésus taking photos of toy cars. Why? I am genuinely impressed with his shots, with the care with which he approached this simple task, how he gathered together his friends all throughout that migrant camp in a moment of brief joy.

It was a very human moment, a moment where kids were simply being kids. It was a moment of possibility — here, this young boy took delight in taking photos, and he was good at it.

I wonder, too, if it wasn’t an Easter moment: In a moment ripe with challenge and struggle, hope remains. Hope broke through.

But this hope calls to us, I think. At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, in what is called the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love, we are invited to celebrate God’s love and joy in us. But we do so by loving and serving others, by looking around us to see who has not yet made it to the celebration.

I think what struck me so much about that brief moment with Jésus was the fact that I was witnessing God’s dream manifesting itself in him — his desire to take photos, his love of the task, his friendship with others. That’s a privileged thing to witness. And I think it demands a response.

Where have you seen God’s love at work in another? And how does it challenge you to love and serve during this Easter season?

This reflection is part of the award-winning weekly email series, “Now Discern This.” If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

a person smiling for the cameraEric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith and My Life with the Jedi: The Spirituality of Star Wars, an exploration of Star Wars through the lens of Ignatian spirituality (Loyola Press). He is the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America MagazineNational Catholic ReporterU.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, IgnatianSpirituality.com and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, Small Wonders Magazine, Air and Nothingness Press and more.  Sign up for his Substack “Story Scraps” here. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat.