Jesus said unto them, “Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.”-Luke 9:48
Bruna is not to be confused with Bruno. I have written about Bruno in several posts but for the first time I am telling Bruna’s story. They both are about the same age and share the male and female versions of their names. Their similarities end here besides the fact that they are both homeless. Both have very different stories to tell regarding their journey to the streets.
Bruna never had much of a chance. Her mother is a crack addict. Consequently, Bruna was exposed to drugs and crime since the day she was born. This did not stop her from hoping that she would have a decent mother. She really just wanted a mother, but her mother never wanted a daughter. This did not stop Bruna from trying to be one to her. She tried everything within her capacity to please her mother. Nothing seemed to work. Her mother was too broken to notice. It was really a question of identity. Children discover their self-worth through their parents. They are the first ones to give us some meaning for our very existence. Unfortunately, her mother never gave her this assurance. Bruna admits that she always had people willing to look out for her. However, for a little child, it is not the same. She wanted her own mother to love her. Bruna always tried to win her mother’s heart. She wanted her life to mean something for her mother. All her attempts only brought tears for Bruna. Her mother had nothing to give and this is why she was slowly killing herself with crack.
Bruna hardly smiles. She usually keeps to herself and does not interact with people easily. The thing that struck me most was that she remembered Mary’s name almost immediately after our first meeting. She would come to Mary and clearly articulate her name as if to say that I know you by name instead of just a generic anonymous greeting. She would always give Mary a kiss. She shares Mary’s interest in art and she loves to color complex designs and patterns. She shared with us that she discovered her love for art when she was living in a Catholic Orphanage. This was something we never knew about her. She could also recite the rosary in Latin which she learned from the nuns. São Paulo has a world-class art museum that has a permanent collection including those of Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Despite in her interest in art, Bruna had never set foot in this place. This is not uncommon because places as such tend to intimidate our children and teens. They feel too self-conscious to enjoy them. We asked her if she would like to go the museum with us. Her face lit up with a huge smile and she nodded enthusiastically. We set the date and time and when the day arrived, we found Bruna all dressed and ready for our visit together.
When we walked into the museum, Bruna just wandered off on her own and started admiring the different paintings. It appears that all the beauty displayed in this place just consumed all her fears and sense of insecurity. She started gazing at the paintings and savoring the colors and the details of the art pieces. On several occasions we were all drawn to the same pictures. There was one particular art piece by a Brazilian artist, Candido Portinari that arrested both our attention. The picture depicted the death of a child and the family were in tears and devastated by the tragic event. It conveyed a sentiment so palpable and Bruna and I just stood there absorbed in this sentiment. Pain and suffering unites all humanity. It is something we share in common. Bruna is only twenty and she has experienced more then her fair share of it. Maybe it wasn’t the hardness of life that attracted her to this picture. Maybe it was the family being together despite the tragic circumstances. This togetherness is something she did not even possess.
This was not the only picture that she reflected on. The paintings that held her attention revealed her distinctive taste and perhaps even a little bit about herself. After the museum, we went for ice-cream and we sat at a food court and just talked and ate together. Then we went back to our apartment and she went back to her spot in the streets. We hugged before we said goodbye. She was truly happy to spend the day with us. At least, when we were in the museum, our differences melted away and we were united in the different expressions of the human experience. There was no class or social divisions in the art themselves. There was just a longing for something meaningful.
I wrote the section above about three months ago. I don’t know why I never published it. We did not see Bruna for a while after this little excursion. It is not uncommon. Everything is very fluid in the streets. We might spend a special day or have a intimate connection with a child one day and then we won’t see them for months before our next interaction. We have learned to appreciate each special moment as a gift from God and not expect a constant repetition of it. Such occasions are treasures that we will stay with us for eternity. We shouldn’t get too greedy for these treasures but just receive them as the Holy Spirt gives them to us.
Bruna began eventually to reappear in our lives. Since we are always found sitting at the steps of the Cathedral, she knew exactly where to find us. A couple of days ago, she sat next to us on the steps and asked if she could color. As usual she chose one with a complex design. She is very meticulous. She never repeats colors and chooses them in a way that highlights particular objects in the picture which have impressed her. She sat and colored in silence for almost two hours. When finished, she wanted to work on another piece. Occasionally she would stop to say something but nothing really significant, perhaps a passing thought. She did not need to say anything important. Her presence alone spoke volumes. We found out that her birthday falls on the same day as Mary. We asked what she wanted to do. She had no idea. Birthdays come and go for these children without any significance. It is not surprising that they want nothing special for their birthdays. We convinced her to have coffee and cake with us. She smiled and agreed.
The times we spent with Bruna are quiet and peaceful. She does not say much but she just sits with us. I think this is all she wanted from her mother. She just wanted to be with her. She does not demand anything from us. She has never asked us to help her in any way. She just wants to sit and be with us. Bruna is known for her aggressiveness in the streets. She has to be this way in order to survive. With us, she has the opportunity to be a peaceful young girl who just want to be loved. She wants someone to think that her life matters. All she ever received from her mother was rejection. We hope that she senses that her existence is meaningful to us. I believe she does.