The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A - 6th March 2011

Even the most dodgy of cowboy builders knows that if a house is to stand it will need solid foundations. Without foundations a building will always be ready to fall. The fact that the foundations are solid gives us peace of mind. Recently, however, I have begun to see things differently. Twice, over recent weeks, we have had two windows smashed – one by an attempted theft and the other by vandalism. All of a sudden, the fact that the house has a strong foundation is no longer enough.
I am reminded of a place called Babahoyo. Babahoyo is a small town in Ecuador. It is quite a wealthy town but, like so many other towns in Ecuador, the wealth is enjoyed by a very small percentage of the inhabitants. Many thousands of the people are extremely poor. They are so poor, in fact, that they do not even have a place to erect their shacks. This would be a problem anywhere but in Babahoyo it is a problem with a very particular twist. Babahoyo is very low-lying and is affected by daily flooding. The only place that the poor can build their houses is in the flood plain which floods up to 3m every day.
The poor of Babahoyo are very ingenious and their solution is to build floating houses. Each day as the tide rises their houses float and then, when the water goes down, their house is deposited wherever the water leaves them. They avoid catastrophe by attaching their houses to large wooden stakes by means of long ropes. One of the results of this precarious existence is that the poor of Babahoyo never know who they will wake up next to the following day. This means that they must try very hard not to fall out with anyone lest their enemy, during the night, would cut the rope and send their house and inhabitants to its doom floating down the river.
The poor of Babahoyo have a prayer that they say. It goes something like this: “God grant that we may get on with our neighbours tomorrow so that our day may be peaceful and our night safe”.
This attitude – determination to get on with everyone who might be their neighbour – is the only foundation that their houses have.
It seems to me that this is a good example for us. If we dedicate our lives to criticising others, criticising our families and criticising ourselves, we will always be miserable. If we dedicate our lives to trying to get on with others, to getting on with our families and getting on with ourselves, we will live every moment.
We can spend our lives trying to secure our homes with lights and walls and alarms and still know that they are still not safe or we can follow the example of the people of Babahoyo. I suggest that we could do worse than make their prayer our own: “God grant that we may get on with our neighbours tomorrow so that our day may be peaceful and our night safe”.

Article posted on 6th of March 2011

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