Serving With Ourselves

But we don’t serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals.

Rachel Naomi Remen, In the Service of Life. 

We have so much gratitude for the experience that we were able to share together in El Paso. We had begun discussing immigration with the Darst Center while in Chicago, and continuing to learning about it while physically at the southern border provided us the opportunity to hear from a community of people who interact with the immigration system in some capacity every day. We were only in El Paso briefly, but our time spent there was so full that we ended our days with an extraordinary amount of information to try to process. Although at this point in our journey we were feeling quite strained and fatigued due to the exhaustion that comes from traveling with a small group of people, this experience at the border was critical in terms of demonstrating to us how trying to hear and see different perspectives creates for a stronger and more united community. In getting to meet and hear from people who, in many ways, have such a tremendously different experience of life than those of us in this group, it has been wonderful to open ourselves up to hearing about how others experience the world. To be able to walk through this life in the company of those around us is truly a gift, and in accepting that we can truly only experience life from our own perspective, we can begin to more clearly understand and participate in the concept of living out service in honor of life.

The service we experienced this week was incredibly impactful on an individual level, as well as within our group as a whole. We hold so much appreciation and gratitude in our hearts for Pastora Rose Mary and the Iglesia Lutheran Cristo Ray community, with whom we felt very welcomed and embraced by. By inviting us into your lives and sharing with us your experiences of how complex it can be to live and serve at the border, we not only had the opportunity to hear and know your stories, but now we will have them to carry with us so that we can share them with others as well. We feel quite honored to have had the opportunity to engage with and be present in these relationships. The community of individuals whom contributed to our experience in El Paso will continue to be lights in our lives as we move forward with our semester and with our experience of life. To learn more about the Cristo Rey Border Immersion Program, please visit https://iglesiacristorey.wixsite.com/borderimmersion

As we move forward onto this final stretch in our semester, we realize we already have a tremendous amount to reflect on. Throughout this segment of the semester, our focus was to begin exploring American Myths, Community, & the Individual. The combination of classes, readings, papers, site visits, conversations, and every other way we engaged in some kind of learning left us, at times, with our heads spinning. These students are feeling the pressures and stresses of life from many different angles: they’re transitioning into a new chapter of life that may be quite different from their life of the last 18(+) years; they’re trying to tend to that life, while also trying to be present in the moment with the people they’re with, while also trying to prepare themselves for their future on campus; they’re participating in exhaustive small group travel that requires a lot of togetherness; they’re learning about a variety of complex societal issues; the list could continue. In knowing this, we are learning how to be patient and compassionate with both ourselves and with others. When we take the risk of opening ourselves up to share our stories with the people around us, as well as by accepting others’ invitations into a glimpse of the world through their eyes, then we are establishing formative and supportive social and emotional connections, and we are expanding our understanding of how the world is experienced differently from people other than ourselves. Like we learned during our intensive wilderness travel with VOBS, having differences is not only inevitable, but it is what can make our group more robust and tenacious if we work to support ourselves and support each other in developing those differences into refined strengths.

From this Gap Experience as a whole, we are beginning to learn about how important it is for us to be connected to the people and the world around us; we need to be able to see and hear people and the stories they share, and we need to be observant and critical in terms of how we participate in the systems that our society is built upon and functional through. Equally important, though, is being able to take the time and the space for ourselves to disconnect from others in order to better connect with our own personhood. Especially as we transition into the increasing independence that is becoming apart of our lives, we are learning how we can find ways to take care of ourselves; in order to more fully serve others, it is helpful for us know how we can show up with our most present and attentive selves. By practicing how to reflect, receive feedback, and listen to the truest parts of ourselves with patience and compassion, we discover ways in which we can better honor ourselves, and then be able to do the same with others.

Unexpected puppy encounter… The pictures tell the story better than I can.