Love in Practice

I’m really happy about how comfortable all of my experience has been so far, even in light of all the struggles and bumps in the road along the way. Even through awkwardness or really wishing I could just speak Spanish already, I feel home. The challenges make this journey that much more beautiful and I know that, though not always in the moment, and I do appreciate and accept them.

Nevertheless they are challenges and sometimes life here, though magnificent and wonderful, is just hard. The days where I forget why I’m here make these days even more difficult to live through. I was definitely not able to fully explain why I wanted to come here with Rostro de Cristo when I tried to and I think I just didn’t know the words to describe it. After reading a bit of this book, No Greater Love, a compilation of Mother Teresa’s work and beliefs, I finally feel like I can put words to what my heart had been feeling. Thinking back on it, I don’t know how I trusted myself with something as big as this, because I was having trouble explaining it all to myself. All I knew was that my heart knew and somehow I was able to know that was enough. I let it steer my life and that was that. But now I get it. I get what my heart was feeling. I get why the mission of Rostro de Cristo is so important as I felt it was. I knew presence was a big part of it and I longed for that. I believe in the pillars of the program and in what I would be doing here but now it has really all come together. Mother Teresa talks about what God asks of us, which is not to solve any one person’s problems or even the problems of our world. God asks that we accept our brothers and sisters of this world and love them. Be with them. Care for them. Of course, solving problems of the world in any way that I can is a way I can show love for these people but first I have to learn to love them, really truly love them as Christ would have me love them. Mother Teresa talks about the problems of the world and how serving people isn’t always as easy as giving someone a piece of bread to satisfy hunger or building something to satisfy another need. Sometimes the worst way people suffer isn’t what they lack on the outside but what they lack on the inside. How can I serve people who suffer inwardly. How I can serve people who have been rejected by society, who are outcasts, who are lonely and are in need of a friend, who are misunderstood and ignored. Mother Teresa speaks about how in her experience she has seen how this kind of suffering can sometimes be much worse than outward suffering because it is a suffering of the heart. Sometimes the best way we can serve people is to simply be with them, show them they matter, that we care and that we will listen to them and love them. That is what the mission of Rostro de Cristo is all about and I believe that is what Christ’s love is all about. If I can learn how to serve the “least of these” and love as Christ loves, I can learn how to serve people around the world in other ways as well. I felt so called to be here because God wanted me to learn about love. And I love my neighbors. And I have seen how presence, simply being with people, goes a long way. More than you would think. More than I’ve ever known or thought could be. It’s incredible really. How something so simple can be so healing and life giving. I know this because it goes both ways. And their presence in my life has made me feel alive. Christ’s love brings me alive.

“When I pick up a starving person off the street and offer him a bowl of rice…I can satisfy his hunger. But a person that has been beaten or feels unwanted or unloved or fearful or rejected by society experiences a kind of poverty that is much more painful and deep…Remember, it is the individual that is important to us. In order to love a person, one must come close to him or her.” Mother Teresa

When I was explaining what I had read to a friend in a letter, this is what I wrote:

Reading all of this brought me the light again of understanding presence. I am in Ecuador in this small community growing relationships with just a few neighbors, which really doesn’t influence any real change for a large group of people, but person to person, it all matters so much still. I am in Ecuador not to “do” anything like change a system, but rather to comfort the people I am with. To get to know them and make them feel wanted, loved, remembered and give them hope. I am here to love and experience the many wonderful and beautiful fruits of love and live fully in that, realizing that this love is so life-giving. That this love should be part of my everyday life no matter where I am in the world. So when I feel limited and feel like I can’t make any change, I remember I am giving people love which can cure the deeper inner pain and cannot always be noticed on the outside. I remember that I am giving hope and showing people they are important and their lives do matter enough that I would come to spend time with them all the way from home wherever that may be.

When I forget all of this, it is those days I find most difficult. I find that I wish I could “do” something sometimes. Feel like my impact here is making a difference. I have no doubt I will continue living a life of service wherever I go in the many different ways that service can be, but here in Ecuador I am living a very specific  kind of service and I have to remind myself why it is so important. I think starting off this way, of being and not doing, before I go off with all of my ideas and things I want to “do”, will really help me understand the things I want to “do” and how to go about doing them with the love I will learn here in Ecuador. It will all fit together and it is fitting that this experience come before the others.

Still, it’s hard to ignore what I feel passionate about or what I feel I would normally be able to help with or do something about. When I see the street dogs skinny and hungry, being ignored and abused, all I want to do is care for them, or at the very least give them bread. I want them to know someone loves them and they are not alone. I wish I could do something for them. But that is not why I’m here. When I hear families struggling with money or talk about needing something, I wish I could just give them that thing they need or help them with whatever it is they lack so they have one less road block to figure out but that is also not why I am here. I am not here to patch up anything with money, because it will not last. I am not here to tell people how things should be like family matters, support systems or gender roles. I am simply here to be. And to love.

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing…love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1Corinthians 13:3, 7-8

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