Amarilis (the first person on the right) was hired to clean our church office but she did so much more than that. She cooked lunch everyday for those who stay over the noon hour. The staff persons who stay for lunch often have very little money to put into the hat for even a basic lunch. And some of the staff members have dietary restrictions mostly from having diabetes. Amarilis took on this task with grace and humility, her chance to share the love of Christ.
Amarilis lived in a distant part of Santo Domingo, a two hour bus ride each way on four different buses. It cost her over half her salary to do so. After paying her bus fare she was left with about $50 for a month of full time work. She has four children.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people as we all know. In the case of Amarilis there is no way to even imagine any kind of reason for her tragedy. She was doing laundry at her home at 11:30pm because the electricity had just come back on. Power outages are so common that one must take advantage of the few hours that it is available.
Amariilis was hanging her clothes on a wire connected to the neighbor’s home and to hers. Because of faulty wiring throughout her neighborhood somehow there was high voltage coming through her clothesline from her neighbors iron window bars. It never had done that before. She was electrocuted. Her husband rushed to her not knowing why she was on the ground. When he touched her he too was electrocuted.
Amarilis lived her faith quietly as a servant, and in humility took up the towel and basin to love like Jesus loved. Her extended family will take up the task of raising the children and her church community will pitch in also. The pain will subside but the loss cannot be recovered. And even though this tragedy shook all of us who knew her, we will forget and move on.
It seems to me that this story is not uncommon among the urban poor of Santo Domingo but those of us with better fortunes rarely see it or even hear of such accounts. We know poverty as statistics or we do not even know it at all. I know Jesus was and is present in a special way in the life of Amarilis and her family and her community. That gives me comfort. I also know that I overlooked Amarilis at the office, it took me months to even get to know her name. That makes me very sad.