A few months ago, a young American woman named Kate decided to organize a choir in a refugee camp.
To do so, she went to Germany, as a visiting guest artist at the American Academy in Berlin. She settled down around the block from a Red Cross building. Her camp is a gym with about 200 asylum-seekers, coming currently from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Moldova and Vietnam.
Oh, to see the faces of the children Kate is working with as part of the Hutto Project, named after her late music teacher, Benjamin Hutto, who worked out of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. To look at those children, pictures of whom you can see on the Hutto Project's Facebook page, is to witness the persistence of beauty and the miracle of grace.
As one visitor puts it: "For the course of a song or dance, for a few minutes when she has them thoroughly engaged, (the Hutto team) makes (the children) laugh and smile, and you can actually see that for those minutes, and maybe only those minutes, they are forgetting everything else." This is true beauty, in the midst of so much that could otherwise blind everyone to its presence.
Kate's story reminds me of tales I've read all my life of founders of religious orders who simply answered a call put in their heart by God, without full regard for how to get from point A to point B, never mind having the luxury to think about Z. But the resources came, as did the people. Translators, musicians, videographers and counselors have all flocked to Project Hutto.
I happened to be with about 100 religious sisters as Easter approached, just hours after almost 200 of them were gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington for the Little Sisters of the Poor religious-liberty case. My crew these days are the Sisters of Life, who are celebrating their silver jubilee year, two decades into the life of their community, founded to cultivate a culture of life. The sisters pour their hearts out to women who find themselves in what could otherwise seem to be impossible situations -- alone, pregnant, often beset by the many stresses of life, with the world telling them to end the life of their child. The sisters love these mothers and give them the support they need to embrace their lives and the budding lives of their children. The sisters also care for those who have been hurt by a culture of death.
Pope Francis often talks about people on the peripheries in a throwaway society. We cast aside people who seem to be without value. If the poor are even on our radar at all, it may be as a statistic or unfortunate collateral damage in a news story. Caught up in headlines about Obamacare politics, to stop for a moment and consider who the sisters are, what they do and why they do it could be a great consolation and boost for our society at a time when people are despairing and doubling down on chaos or anger. We need to know that such people as the Little Sisters of the Poor exist. They help us see joy.
Whether they be my young friend Kate Eberstadt or Sister Constance of the Little Sisters, who has become a master communicator during the group's unexpected national media moment, or Mother Agnes Donovan, the group's superior general -- none of these women are what the world might traditionally think of when it thinks of mothers. And yet, they are exactly the mothers we need -- at a moment when so much seems impossible. At a moment where the future is unclear, someone hands her son or daughter a musical instrument and it's just a little bit of a miracle. To see love again. To see hope again. In the smile of someone who didn't have to care for you, to even give a moment's thought to you. To see someone love your child -- this is the start of a reawakening.