We’ve been back from Rochester, New York for a few days and I thought it would be helpful to reflect on my experience. As I look back on the week we spent with the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Rochester, there are lessons that I bring back to Helena: give generously, serve with a smile, and love continually.
I was fortunate to spend a week with thirteen outstanding Carroll College students who were eager to give of themselves each day. As I process the week and look ahead to my future, I can’t help but think that is the most generous gift that I can give others, the gift of myself. It was a great feeling to share ourselves with those we served, whether it was women in a house of hospitality, children at a daycare center, students in schools, clients at a community center, patrons of a soup kitchen, the sisters who hosted our group, or one another. I hope to listen to God’s call to give of myself more fully to others.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Choose your attitude” time and time again. Our time of service and ministry was a great reminder to me about the importance of serving with a smile. My time at Nativity Prep, I was shown how students react to someone’s smile, something they unfortunately aren’t shown every day. Their reaction isn’t completely unpredictable; they smile back, which is an amazing reward. I hope as I serve others in the future, to do so with a smile on my face and in my heart so others know that I am happy in helping them.
It’s not always easy to love others. Occasionally, I catch myself making up an excuse to not love. I become selfish with the greatest gift God gave me, the ability to love. I was reminded on this trip the importance to love others first, just as God loves me. Not just when it is convenient or when it will benefit me, but all the time.
I had a great week serving and growing with some amazing people. We shared an abundance of laughs, a few tears, some early mornings and some late nights, and many prayers together. I can’t wait to do it all again!!
Thanks for all the support through prayers and generosity!
I sat at the airport today and wondered where the plane was. A voice came over the loud speaker informing us our plane had not even left Detroit. Quiet panic settled in as we calculated flight times and realized we would not even be off the ground when our next flight would leave from Detroit.
It is currently four hours later, and I’m back in the kitchen at the convent. We are here until 7pm tomorrow and (God willing) will be back in Helena by midnight.
With all the extra time, I’ve been reflecting on my week. I volunteered at a Catholic elementary school. I worked in a class of first graders.
On Wednesday we had a prayer service at the school. A kindergarten class sang “Amazing Love.” Some kids were belting the song out at the top of their lungs, some were just doing the motions, a couple kids were completely distracted, and one even had his back to the audience. I sat there and couldn’t help but think, “Do these kids have the slightest clue what they are singing?” Then a thought hit me upside the head, “Do you?”
These kids had shown me so much love. Not only that, they have their innocence. Their imaginations haven’t been taught there’s a limit, and they believe in the impossible. Who better to understand impossible love?
I also realized, even if they don’t have the slightest understanding of the words they sing, how could God not be pleased with their song? Does it not still bring God glory? Does it not still praise Him? We cannot even fathom the depths of God’s love. We may not know the meaning of the words we sing, or the difference we make in another person’s life. That doesn’t mean we honor God any less with our life.
When I looked back at it all I realized everyway I have served this week, I could have done in Helena. I wanted to come to Rochester so that I can serve, looking for a life changing experience.
Today it hit me, ultimately what lasting difference would the trip have made in my life if the service opportunities ended with the trip? If I could only find service opportunities unique to Rochester, my experience would have ended when I got on the plane. The service cannot stop here!
Another thing I wanted to do was make a visible difference in someone’s life. Although I had become quite attached to these kids, I wasn’t convinced my presence made any difference beyond saving the teacher sometime correcting papers. That was until I received a thank you card from one of the girls in my class. Of all the kids, I thought she was the most indifferent to my presence. The card itself was construction paper and the majority of the words were spelt wrong. (In fact, I’m not even sure what a couple of the words are.) But what I could read was very heart felt and almost made me cry. I also found out later that she is going through a particularly difficult time. We never know the impact our presence will have on another person’s life.
Thus far I have learned…
There is work to be done everywhere; it is not necessary to travel thousands of miles to make a difference in someone’s life.
Service sometimes takes the form of simply being present with an open heart.
There’s nothing like celebrating Marte Gras with these sisters.
Listening does not consist of silencing your mind in order to hear someone else. Listening is accomplished by opening the heart.
So today was an interesting adventure to say the least. Our morning started off similar to most, except for the fact that all of us were half-asleep since we weren’t going to any of our work sites today. Sister Donna shared with us an analogy to consider as we prepared for our road trip to Niagara Falls. Our life is a car and we are the drivers, and Jesus is trying to get into our car. Sometimes Jesus is standing on the street corner asking for a ride, sometimes we throw Him in the trunk for when we decide we really need Him, sometimes He’s in the backseat (where He’s not much of a backseat driver at all), and sometimes he’s in the front seat co-piloting or even in the driver’s seat. It’s up to us. Personally, I reflected on the fact that right now I feel like Jesus and I are in the middle of a Chinese fire drill: the car is stalled and I’m crawling out of the front seat into the passenger seat, and Jesus is outside running around the car because I just can’t drive it anymore. It feels as if I’m out of control of the situation, but it’s only a matter of time until Jesus takes the wheel (Carrie Underwood shout-out).
Our day then took us to Bethany House, which is a house of hospitality serving women. We were put to work cleaning the house, unpacking diapers (a task taken on by all three of our boys on the trip), and unloading boxes and boxes of food. One of the interesting things that came to mind while working was the fact that there was SO MUCH. Pantry shelves were packed, freezers were full (thanks to some awesome toss-and-catch abilities) and there were bags and bags of diapers. I was shocked at the fact that this was considered “not very much” and that the Bethany House has food delivered on a weekly basis and is constantly short on diaper and baby donations. It just made me realize just how many people are in need in this city, and it was a very humbling experience overall.
Enter driver and co-pilot. With Dan in the driver’s seat, yours truly received the humble honor of being the co-pilot, which carries a lot of pressure! I was in charge of directions, the car DJ, potty-break coordinator, and more. We made it to Niagara Falls successfully without getting lost (yet). We took some pictures, and then the majority of the group went to visit Ben’s homeland. I went with a smaller group who stayed on the American side of the border, and we wandered around across the bridge to the island where there is a smaller falls called the Bridal Veil Falls. This might have been my favorite part of the trip so far, because watching Dan’s excitement and then disappointment with seeing the Bridal Veil Falls and then realizing that they were closed was truly beautiful. It’s not very often as a college student that I’m able to see an honest example of true love and devotion to one’s future spouse. So shout-out to Brittany, who I have yet to meet, because you two are already a role model for me of the kind of love that I hope to one day experience.
But enough for the sappiness. So the rest of our day was spent partying (with respect to dance of course). As the car DJ, we ended our trip rocking out to some satellite radio, including KE-dollar sign-HA and multiple occasions of fist-pumping. We learned that numerous members of our trip have quite the vocal range, that Dan enjoys a good knee-slap or wheel-tap on occasion, and that there is nothing better to bring a group together than some good old tunes and shuffles in the seat while driving.
This morning marks our third day of service at our sites this week. As I take a little break from all the excitement of the day, I’ll share with you a little bit of my week so far.
Dan and I were placed at Nativity Prep School, which is a small multi-cultural middle school just across the parking lot from the convent. It has only been up and running for 2 years, and currently holds grades 5-7. There are 35 amazing kids attending that have such unique personalities. Most of the kids come from low-income families and a majority were falling behind in the public school system. From the very first day we walked into their morning assembly, I felt so blessed to get to spend time with them and experience diversity that I never experienced growing up in small town Montana.
Throughout the week we’ve done many different tasks including reading with students and tutoring after school. Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with 4 different students after school, and we had a blast. They are so energetic and of course they wanted to do anything but homework. I have to say that I have gotten attached! I have had so much fun reading with a fifth grader named Treveon. He gets so into the stories, does sound effects, and is always asking when we can read together again. It’s going to be very difficult to say goodbye at the end of the week.
Overall, I am very impressed with the school. The faculty, which consists of experienced teachers and volunteers, really care about their students. They constantly strive to help the kids be the best they can be. It really reminds me of Carroll’s motto “Not for school, but for life,” because they really are taught life lessons that will change their future.
Back at the convent, last night was our Mardi Gras celebration. We ate way too much, ice cream sundaes and brownies included, and had a dance party. The highlight of my night was watching the sisters dancing the Macarena and The Electric Slide (pictures and videos will be available!) We really have become a little family here and I have been blessed to get to know some amazing classmates on this trip that have really become friends.
The whole experience has been very humbling and I have come to see and appreciate how much I really have. The kids I work with everyday are so full of life and it has really sparked something in me, and I thank God for that. The experience has been inspiring, and there is so much yet to come. Thank you for all of the support and to the Kansas City group, we are praying for you!
So here I am, sitting in a dining room of a huge Victorian-era house in the middle of Rochester, exhausted and trying to think of ways to help children understand the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day.
I’m not going to lie; this is not how I pictured my spring break to be at the beginning of my freshman year.
However, I wouldn’t change the events that have already place here with this group of students plus staff member. We all come from different places and different majors but have all found a common ground on which we can grow more in our faith and our adult life. Now, confession time right now, I am not extremely Catholic in the sense that I go to Church every Sunday and based my life solely on the facts from the Bible. I know that someone is watching over me, guiding me on a path in which I have never been on but will so become my own. In this house, I don’t feel judged for my certain beliefs, which I was completely afraid of happening.
So now comes the classroom 106 where I will be all week with thirteen rambunctious first graders. When I walk into the brightly colored room, a little girl greeted me with a loud “YOU’RE PRETTY!!!!!!” It literally made my jaw drop because it was so innocent and sweet, then as the day went on the kids were begging me to answer their spelling questions…….just for the record I am an AWFUL speller so the pressure was on. I have never fallen in love with children so fast, they all hit a special part in my heart and it makes me smile when they are so willing to learn. What shocked me the most is that they wanted me to join them on our incredible journey. It was a great reminder at how me, a small human being, matters to someone. I had been feeling extremely inadequate lately in my life, in the whole matter of what is my propose on this earth or if my life means anything. These children truly brought to live a cheesy quote that I love ‘you may be one person in the world, but to one person you are their world.’
So I leave this post with that thought, off to bed to be rested for another day at Nazareth Hall!
Today marks our first day of service. All 14 of us have been placed at sites around the city of Rochester to serve in places such as schools, soup kitchens, clinics and day cares. I was amazed to hear at the end of the day about the vastly different experiences that each of us has had thus far. For me personally the experience of diversity has humbled me greatly. Working in the clinic we served people who have no insurance. As I shadowed the nurse practitioner at the clinic and preformed very routine tasks such as blood pressure screenings, head to toe assessments and chart reviews I could not help but contrast the population of Rochester to the patients I serve at St. Peters. The faces and problems of the city are very different than the faces of Helena yet a smile and the presence of a health care provider serve the same basic need for love and comfort. I am trying to cement the faces of our patients in my mind from single mothers to homeless fathers I want to remember that the population of people is not limited to those in a hospital bed or those fortunate enough to seek care from doctors working in billion dollar hospitals. This my first experience in a community health setting and I really could not have asked for a better opportunity.
I also would like to add that we are supplementing our serious discussions on service and how God is working in our life with plenty of laughs. The funniest stories come from the people serving in schools-they are all realizing the gift that young children have for looking at life very simply. Some of us are finding the comfort of a child and the love that happens when you hold such innocent young life in your own hands. So from teaching to providing healthcare to serving food we have all been challenged and we have all laughed lots. Even those of us struggling with our service sites and why we felt called to come here I can guarantee (for all those parents reading this) we are all warm and safe which at this point we are realizing is one of the biggest blessings we are fortunate enough to have.
Peace and Blessings to everyone especially those servings serving in Kansas City.
I woke up this morning and it was almost like we had never left home, there was snow everywhere, but then I remembered something was different, maybe because I had woken up in a room with 6 other girls or because there was a definite level of excitement for the unknown of the upcoming day. After breakfast and Mass we went to “Pray the City.” It was a known experience for me because I was here in Rochester last year for Headlights, but it was still wonderful to be able to do it again, and a different Sister led it this year so it was a whole new experience. In “Praying the City” we went to everybody’s service sites for the week, Nazareth Academy, Day Star, St. Peter’s Soup Kitchen, Hope Hall, Nativity Prep, and St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center. At each stop we learned a little about each service site and prayed over the people who would be serving there. We also drove through Rochester and once again my eyes were really opened by seeing the poverty that was so common throughout the city. Sister Marilyn talked to us a little bit about the history that surrounded the places we drove through and about some of the problems each little community faced. We came back from “Praying the City” and had some time to relax and play games. After dinner, which was fabulous (I can’t express how nice it is to have a home cooked meal at a table with friends) we went and had reflection time with the Sisters. We all shared a little bit about why we had chosen to come on Headlights and what we were looking forward to, and some of the things I heard were truly inspiring. I am really looking forward to growing in my faith and in relationship with the people around me. We begin at our service sites tomorrow and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for us this year.
Thank you all for your prayers and support, keep reading to see what the week shapes up to be for each of us.
Love you and thanks again.
After a long day of travel, one that started well before dawn in Helena and came to an end well after dark in Rochester, our team of 14 arrived at the home of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Rochester. We were greeted at the airport by Sisters Marilyn and Donna and the short bus with ample space for luggage. The short drive to our home for the week allowed us to share stories of the day and the sisters their first impressions of their excited guests for the week. Our treat upon arrival wasn’t just a warm meal made up of pasta and bread, but their amazing ability to remember our names so quickly. Smiles abounded, from our group traveling over 2,000 miles and eager to serve, and from the sisters, who have another group of Carroll students visiting for the thirteenth consecutive year.
Our team is appreciative of many things today, for safe travels, for good fellowship, for this experience, and for our gracious hosts Donna, Marilyn, Lorraine, Beth and Julia. We pray for the Kansas City Headlights cohort as they continue their travels on Sunday. We’re looking forward to sharing more in the coming days.