The moment we arrived at her home, Cuca greeted each of us with grandmotherly affection. She’s the kind of woman who calls everyone “mi hija” or “mi hijo,” which means, “My son! My daughter!” Even if she just met you.
After her warm greeting, she immediately offered everyone heaping plates of papaya, which her husband sells, along with plantains, to make a living. When one wasn’t enough to feed everyone, they cut up a second for us.
A widow, Cuca used to live in a homeless shelter called La Roca. While living there at the age of 73, she met her husband, Jesús, by sitting together at the park and during meals.
They have been together three years now, and their love for each other is so evident.
As she was living there, she took in her great grandson Josef, because his mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol. She decided to change her life, move out of La Roca, and try to find a house in order to provide a better life for him. Josef’s grandmother also did drugs, so Cuca wanted to cut the negative cycle off with Josef.
They now live in a Homes of Hope home, which they received last October.
Cuca still goes to La Roca several times a week, but now she goes to serve. She is a nurse, so she helps out with medical issues at the shelter.
She told us matter of factly that she doesn’t have any money to give, so she gives of her time.
“God has given me so much, so I need to give,” she said, “I need to serve.”
Some of the people she works with are epileptics, others are drug addicts, many of them are elderly. Cuca has a special place in her heart for the elderly. “They’re at the end of their lives, the ends of their ropes,” she tells us. Not many people have pity on the elderly who are on the streets. “People look at them and say, ‘How ugly!’” she said sadly.
As she told us about a man with twisted feet, who used to live in La Roca, but has decided to go back to living in the streets, her eyes welled up with tears. She often goes and looks for him, brings him food, and tries to get him to come back to the shelter, but he usually doesn’t recognize her. And he doesn’t want to come back. “It’s (all) just so heavy,” she told us tearfully.
What a tender heart that feels so deeply for the people she ministers to.
After we finished our heaps of papaya, Jesús and Cuca insisted on buying us pizza.
As we sat outside around their house, eating slices of pizza, taking sips of Coke, and listening to Cuca’s stories, I was humbled by the incredible generosity of this couple.
Even as we packed up to leave, Cuca and Jesús insisted on giving us two papayas for the road. And the following week, when another Homes of Hope staff member visited them, they gave her more papayas and plantains to give to us!
As we said goodbye, I was reminded of the widow in the gospels who gave generously, even out of her poverty. I was stunned at how generous, how welcoming Cuca and Jesús could be with a group of strangers, some of whom didn’t even speak the same language as them. They gave out papayas, even when it was their main source of income. Cuca gave of her time when she had nothing else to give. Jesús was willing to spend time and money to drive and get a group of strangers a pizza.
Even after living in a homeless shelter, losing a husband, struggling with family members who are addicted to drugs… Cuca still chooses to give generously, from the little that she has.
I hope my life can reflect even a fraction of that kind of generosity.