From: “Here I Am, Lord”: The Letters and Writings of Ita Ford
(Ita Ford, MM, was a Maryknoll missionary in Bolivia, Chile, and El Salvador. She worked with the poor and war refugees. On December 2, 1980, she was murdered in El Salvador along with fellow missionaries Sister Maura Clarke, MM; Jean Donovan; and Dorothy Kazel, OSU, by a death squad of the right-wing Salvadoran military-led government.)
The odds that this note will arrive for your birthday are poor, but know I’m with you in spirit as you celebrate sixteen big ones. I hope it’s a special day for you.
I want to say something to you and wish I were there to talk to you, because sometimes letters don’t get across all the meaning and feeling. But I’ll give it a try anyway.
First of all, I love you and care about you and how you are. I’m sure you know that, and that holds if you’re an angel or a “goof-off,” a genius or a jerk. A lot of that is up to you and what you decide to do with your life.
What I want to say – some of it isn’t too jolly birthday talk, but it’s real.
Yesterday, I stood looking down at a sixteen-year-old boy who had been killed a few hours earlier. I know a lot of kids even younger who are dead. This is a terrible time in El Salvador for youth. A lot of idealism and commitment is getting snuffed out here now.
The reasons why so many people are being killed are quite complicated, yet there are some clear simple strands. One is that many people have found a meaning to life, to sacrifice, to struggle and even to death! And whether their life spans sixteen years or sixty or ninety, for them their life has had a purpose. In many ways, they are fortunate people. Brooklyn is not passing through the drama of El Salvador, but some things hold true wherever one is and at whatever age. What I am saying is I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you. Something worth living for, maybe even worth dying for, something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead.
I can’t tell you what it might be. That’s for you to find, to choose, to love. I just encourage you to start looking and support you in the search.
Maybe this sounds weird and off the wall and, maybe, no one else will talk to you like this, but then, too, I’m seeing and living things that others around you aren’t. I also gather that you haven’t been straining yourself this year in school. Maybe you’re into a drifting phase. I don’t know. You or no one else has said. All I know is that I want to say to you: Don’t waste the gifts and opportunities you have to make yourself and other people happy. Do yourself and a lot of others a favor and get moving again.
I hope this doesn’t sound like some kind of a sermon. In fact, it’s my birthday present to you. If it doesn’t make sense right at this moment, keep this and read it some time from now. Maybe it will be clearer. Or ask me about it, okay?
A very happy birthday to you and much,