Beauty and Dignity (Guest Post)

The following story is written by Rebecca Adams, a physical therapist who works at the National Rehab Hospital in Washington D.C. Becca is a colleague of Marti Carroll, an RCE board member who has volunteered in Romania many times. Becca and Marti visited RCE this spring. Here are Becca’s impressions.

One of my favorite songs focuses on beauty and why it matters. It says our efforts to create or to be a part of the beauty are like a ‘statue in the park of a war torn town, with its protest of the darkness and the chaos all around.’ RCE’s daily rhythms are marked by an incorruptible beauty, God’s steady river of life, which stands in protest to the realities of oppression and injustice.                                                                                                     

I had the privilege of glimpsing these daily rhythms for a week in my visit this past March alongside longtime RCE board member and PT consultant, Marti Carroll.

First glimpse: RCE’s Residential Campus & Enterprise Center in the village of Pecica. We had the joy of attending Alex’s 16th birthday party. The room was full of uninhibited joy. Hugging/squeezing, non-traditional shouts of delight, an abundance of phone selfie photo requests. And a glimpse into a beautiful brotherhood unfolded. Sandu and Alex have lived together under RCEs care for nine years. Sandu is mostly non-verbal, yet moves around without any trouble. Alex has muscular dystrophy. The characteristic steady loss of muscle mass and function has left him with minimal, spared upper body movement. He’s 40 pounds of skin and bones and heart. Sandu wakes up on his own every 2 hours (and has been doing so for years) to turn Alex so he doesn’t suffer from skin breakdown. You can’t deny the depth of character and love behind that intuitive action.  Ovi Martin, general director of RCE, offered to help Alex transfer to and from the toilet during the party, but Alex declined and insisted on having Sandu come help instead.  

Second glimpse: We wrapped up the afternoon at the beautiful facility in Pecica with a visit to Manu’s independent living space. Manu has lived under RCE’s care since he was a child—from Darius Houses to the Sunshine School to Amy’s House and now Pecica. He’s 21 and employed by RCE through the jobs program. He joyfully welcomed us in to his spotless, clean, very own space – kitchen, bathroom, and bed. His smile was contagious as he opened his fridge to display his very own eggs and basic essentials. Doina Martin offered him the dignity of the opportunity to fully embrace the host role, “Manu, what food do you have to share with your guests?” Manu quickly leapt to the cabinet and retrieved all his cookie stores to lay before us.

Jean Vanier writes that, ‘the greatest pain is rejection, the feeling that you are seen as ugly, dirty, a burden, of no value…And yet we all know that a child, even on the day of his or her birth, knows whether he or she is loved. And if the child feels loved, the body is relaxed, the eyes are bright, there is a smile on the face; in some way the flesh becomes transparent. A child that is loved is beautiful.”

Sandu and Alex display a beautiful brotherhood because they are loved by their Father through the hands of RCE. Manu can experience the beautiful dignity of taking care of and welcoming guests into his space because he feels the safety and assurance of God’s love through RCE.