On losing my marbles and planting seeds - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Summer 2021 newsletter


Rick Dixon, El Salvador

La Esperanza’s expert chibola players at work

After working the last nine years in La Esperanza as a Maryknoll lay missioner, I’ve decided to take a break and return to California to accompany my mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

It was a difficult decision to leave El Salvador. There is so much more to do with our family literacy outreach, which is just as much about learning to read our lives as it is about reading books. That’s what I’ll miss the most — reading life through the daily presence of the people.

There’s something mysterious and beautiful in accompanying folks who’ve got nothing left in their pockets but marbles. I’m thinking of the children who so often stopped me, gave me a few chibolas and invited me to shoot a game. I consistently lost my marbles in the competition, but the kids returned my loss.

“You’re just learning, keep practicing,” they’d say and hold out a handful of chibolas and insist I take them. Now my collection of marbles sits in a small jar on my desk. Looking at them brings warmth and solace, yet the memories also leave a large hole. It’s hard to let go.

I often turn to a poem called We Are Prophets of a Future Not Our Own by the late Bishop Ken Untener. A few of its lines go like this:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that.

“We plant seeds” strikes me deeply. It’s wonderful to see how the youth and the base communities have stepped up — with lots of hard work and love — to continue the literacy programs. People have sent me pictures of kids reading and studying in the library, and just today I received a precious photograph of kids shooting marbles in the street, and I’m reminded of how much I have to learn and wait.

Gracias for all your love and prayers,

Rick Dixon
Rick Dixon is a Maryknoll lay missioner working in several migrant ministries at the U.S.-Mexico border in Mexicali, Mexico.