Lilibeth Sabado


By Lilibeth Sabado, CLM


A busy day in the shelter means having to welcome more than 20 guests at once during a meal time or receiving arrivals just few minutes before the end of a shift. Attending to the same need of the guests at  different times is enough to fill an eight hour shift.  However, those moments are my saving grace. I just need to be attentive to recognize those moments.

One busy day, I heard a volunteer laughing out loud while doing an intake process. The guests she was attending to were laughing even louder. Intrigued, I asked them to fill me in, then the guest narrated his journey that after being processed at the border, his brother picked him up in El Paso and while driving around town they took the wrong turn and ended up in Juarez again so they have to go through another border process but this time with his brother. The people hearing his story all laughed, which somehow lightened the mood of the other guests who looked hungry, tired and confused. Laughter is a saving grace. Finding humor in a situation that cannot be changed is I believe a saving grace.

During my first week in the shelter, I was assigned to work solo in the afternoon shift. A full time volunteer doing the afternoon shift will also do the nocturnal shift which means having to stay overnight in the office. The phone rang at 2:30 in the morning, and since I have some ‘newbie jitters’, I opened the curtain instead of answering the phone. It took me a few seconds to regain my composure, realizing, ‘not the curtain, but the phone! That was my first blooper on my shift that served as my saving grace.

Like many missionaries adapting  to a new language, I find myself navigating  through different Spanish accents, encountering countless funny episodes along the way. But why castigate myself with something I have no control of? Instead, I just laugh at myself. I must admit, it feels good to laugh at my own mistakes.  It’s yet another moment of grace.

I constantly remind myself that while I wait, I must continue to create. When guests arrive at the door, they wear bracelets containing their personal data in QR code form. One thing I love to do is to engage in a ritual to signify their ‘freedom’ by cutting their bracelets. The moment their bracelet is cut, the kids would smile or even clap their hands with joy. The adults would often utter ¡gracias a Dios! A simple ritual yet the profound feeling of relief on their faces is  unmistakable. This serves as a powerful assurance to our guests that the shelter is not a detention facility. Doing this ritual is a saving grace.

One day, I received a family of six. The minute they got off from the border patrol car and entered the shelter door, I saw the father made the sign of the cross. I must admit, that scene made my eyes moist – a moment of grace.

For me, moments of grace would come in various forms. Sometimes it is a sight of a guest who just took a warm shower wearing fresh clothes from the clothes bank.  It might be a family resting peacefully in their comfortable beds using freshly washed beddings. It could be the sight of  children running freely around the hallway or adults preparing meals in the kitchen. It could also be the opportunity to prepare a meal for the guests or seeing guests having meals together. It could even be the simple act of opening the door and welcoming guests or saying goodbye to  guests who are leaving the shelter ready to reunite with their family or sponsor. It might even be the sight of an injured guest enduring pain without  complaint or holding the hand of a newborn. It could even be as simple as seeing guests sitting and chatting in a public bench outside the shelter. These moments,  and many more, are all instances of grace that enrich our work.

I believe that finding a reason  to smile or recognizing something that warms or tickles your heart in the midst of a busy day is a saving grace. May my waiting be filled always with moments of saving grace. May we always have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to feel every saving grace. This is my prayer for each one of us.