Love What You Got While You Got It.

28 Jul

“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.”
Elizabeth Lesser

A little over a year ago I printed out driving directions to a convent in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I walked into a room of 10 strangers, took a deep breath, and met a group of people who would forever change my life.

The second semester of my senior year at Loyola I was handed a book with hundreds of post-grad volunteer opportunities in America and beyond. I had no idea where I was being called next or what to do with life post-Loyola. Actually, I couldn’t even imagine life outside of the little niche I had created for myself in the Windy City. But after starring 80 different volunteer programs, my heart was pulled towards one, and so I sent in one application. At that time I couldn’t have told you what it was that felt so right. But as I sit here in the Southside of Pittsburgh at the Beehive Coffee Shop, preparing to kick it back to the Cleve in the morning, I now see that I was right to trust that little voice and not fight the nudge that pushed me to this place.

We aren’t always granted the luxury of sitting back to reflect on the impact that an experience has on our lives. Oftentimes we rush right through things, too caught up in the past or future to be where our feet are and soak up the magic of a given place and time. We’re physically present, but we fail to open our eyes and see a little of the grace that penetrates each moment. But this year, this time that we’ve had together, was different. Our eyes were opened, the fog was cleared, and we had our own little corner of the universe to cultivate community, service, spirituality, and simplicity—ultimately leading us to further understand what it means to love.

Eleven months ago eleven strangers decided to spend a year devoted to these four pillars. For different reasons and from different places, we all answered the call to come to Pittsburgh and serve. Through their passion, kindness, compassion, and deep-seeded desire to make the world better, my community has served me in ways I never even imagined. They have taught me that life is better when you enter into with others, and that even though investing into another’s chaos and choosing empathy takes its toll on your heart, it is the only way to live a life of love. They have taught me to love myself—even the weird parts—and know that it is only in loving myself that I can exude that love into the world. In each of their own unique ways, my community—and the other individuals in the Burgh who have touched my heart—have taught me a thing or two about the intersection of life and love, and a bit more about who I am in the process.

When reflecting on my purpose in the Burgh, it is impossible to distinguish between what I have given and what I have received. I have learned a lot and grown a lot, but I think that simultaneously I was meant to be here for people to learn and grow from me, too. I don’t say this to be self-aggrandizing in the slightest, but more so because I am beginning to understand that this is exactly how life works. We hear a call and we follow it—never knowing but always trusting that the plan of the Universe—of God—is bigger than we can grasp or comprehend. When we are in sync (haha…Nsync) with the Spirit and answer the call, we must trust that we’re sent where we are meant to be—both to gift and be gifted. This, I think, is what it truly means to be in community. We must come to know and trust that we have something to offer, concurrently knowing and trusting that the other has something to offer us. It is in giving that we receive (holler, St. Francis!). The point then, is to be in community with them all—the roommates, the clients, the co-workers, the strangers on the bus. Don’t write any of them off. Because each and every person can be a messenger from the Divine, if you only choose to see a little.

So though tomorrow this chapter ends and the page must turn, I am overflowing with gratitude for the moment in time that I got to call this home.

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you,

but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach,

because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
Frederick Buechner

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To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

—Mary Oliver

Thanks for it all, Pals.

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