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To the heroes of the National Institutes of Health

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By Ernesto Tinajero

Coming home from our yearly visit to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I found myself wondering about the glory of life. Jesus claims to be the Way, Truth and Life. I have experienced Jesus’ way as we are with other parents in the Kingdom of Sick Kids. Many of the people who make their way to the doctors and researchers at the NIH are ones whose condition is either dire or unique, or in the case of my son, important in unlocking the secrets of the biology to help others.

The NIH stands in contrast to many who see any government run program as a problem. The scientists and researchers have led to high percentages of medical advancements and continue to fund work that will make my son and the millions, if not billions, of lives better. I would venture to say that every American alive today has been touched by the work of the NIH in very positive ways. Yet, I find most people are unaware of their work. I talk to many who, when I say Tito is going to the NIH, have no idea what the NIH is or does. Why have these heroes gone unsung for so long? I am uncertain, but we need to be more grateful to them. They are the ones working on the most fundamental level of life.

What strikes me most, though, is how much I learn about Jesus while there and how spiritual the NIH is. I mean spiritual as Jesus commands, meaning the the place is full of people who love one another, which is Jesus’ marker of true spirituality. Walking the grounds of the Childrens Inn at the NIH, or the hallways of the NIH, I see people of all hues and colors all working for something bigger than themselves, working on giving life to others. Though busy, most stop to smile at my son and he return their gestures with a joy. We met parents that need love as we all do. I touch what Jesus means and the Church so often ignores, love being the Way, Truth and Life. I learn the power of prayer in these moments at the NIH. As I reflected on our time among the heroes of the NIH, a poem came to me as a gift.

Ode to Bella

Bella’s eyes,

the color

of the clear Caribbean

morning sea, dances

at the sight of a green

straight slide. The air

fills with orange juice

and blueberries. Her hair,

spun precious metal

of golden waves, curls

in the water soaked

air of Maryland.

Bella is five and plays

with Tito. Their joy only

found in five olds worldwide,

mows the growing

grass with giggles.

They are the same age,

Tito, my son

and Bella of the pretend

tea parties and dollhouses.

The playground discovered behind

the Children’s Inn of the National

Institutes of Health beckons

them to ride rosy trikes

and sliver scooters. Bella

and Tito meet in the Kingdom

of sick children and worried

parents. They both have

conditions that betray

their play. Condition—

what a cursed word,

which we beat upon, for these

two are more than

their conditions. Both run

as kids, but Biology

tricks. Soon, Bella’s

spine will stiffen like palm

tree, forcing her into a chair

fused with wheels. Today,

she beautiful as she pushes

Tito down the red

corkscrew slide. She

will always be glorious

and beautiful as she

is on this, our eternal day

together by the great ocean,

which creates our common

life. Bella, sweet Bella.

You remain a beloved child

of God. Always.

Ernesto Tinajero
Ernesto Tinajero
Art, says Ernesto Tinajero, comes from the border of what has come before and what is coming next. Tinajero uses his experience studying poetry and theology to write about the intersecting borders of art, poetry and religion.

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