Jakarta, 14 February 2013
Most mornings, an enchanting little girl from the kindergarten adjoining the house at Lenteng Agung skips through the door to give us our morning paper. She greets me with the usual Indonesian good morning salutation of ‘Selamat pagi’ and then she takes my hand as if in a handshake and places it against her forehead. It is a gesture of such grace and reverence. For the children of the kindergarten it is an everyday courtesy. Shanti says the gesture means that the child is taking a blessing from you. I feel very blessed myself. Every time the sisters walk into the yard, the children greet them with wild excitement and always with the same gesture. The grace of Pondok Bocah (Home of the Children).
The children cannot access fee-paying kindergartens and spend a year here learning to read and write before elementary school. It is a little microcosm of the multifaith environment. There are Muslims (including the teacher) and Christians and Catholics. (The latter two groups are always identified as separate religions in Indonesia.) I visit them at the start of their day. They greet their teacher and her assistants and their visitor enthusiastically. Part of the morning routine is that they are asked in English how they are today. To this they each respond ‘Just fine!’ with their two thumbs in the air. Then they quieten for a prayer for their day and for one another. “We pray to Tuhan (God). We want to learn together with friends. Amen”
Sheila Hammond goes back to the USA today after a month supervising the novices’ pastoral care programme in Jakarta. It has been good to share this experience as newcomers (looking at each other wide-eyed in the Jakarta traffic) and being touched by the ways in which we are made to feel at home. Our sisters say to us, ‘visitors enrich our life in Indonesia’. Like the children’s gesture of greeting, the blessing is so mutual.
Anne Corry, rscj
Province of Australia–New Zealand