I realize that I can’t survive without relationships. It’s because of loving relationships that I WANT to survive.
I am happy and proud to report that I am in the midst of my 3rd year as a Dominican Volunteer. It has truly been “an opportunity of a lifetime” for me. I have had numerous opportunities, met wonderful and interesting people, and studied how I fit/don’t fit and why. I have done things that I had previously only imagined possible. I have learned about what I thought was important and am frequently reminded of what really doesn’t matter.
I was riding along the other day on a mission to distribute tickets for Thanksgiving baskets to low income folks; to distribute hot chocolate and donuts to those waiting in line for tickets and to our homeless in the parks. There are a few of our homeless that are seemingly becoming a part of my family. Our visits have definitely changed my perspective. I am loathe to admit it, but previously my style for the homeless was more “If I ignore them, they won’t bother me”, or “I can’t help them.”, or “I don’t know how to help them.” and “I don’t understand.” I am finding that I never really bothered to find out about the homeless; maybe I was/am afraid of the Beatitudes and the responsibility they call me to.
As a DV, I am now lucky enough to have an opportunity to move beyond my safe space and I am learning that the homeless have a very strong and faithful community, that they watch out and care for one another and that they really want to survive. They are first always genuinely happy to see us when we arrive and they want to catch up with us. Following our “catch up”’ they then welcome anything we may have brought along, coats, food, etc. They are surviving, in spite of Covid, the weather getting colder and the lack of things I cannot imagine not having.
I have been thinking about my own life and what “survive” has meant to me. I have discovered that I don’t really use word survive in reference to myself because I think that I WILL survive – at least a few more years. I have family and friends who have, do, and most likely will be around to support me in surviving as long as that is appropriate. I’ve never really had to view my life as “surviving” it. I know that I will have a next meal whenever and whatever I want. I know I will be comfortable in a bed at night and I will be as warm or as cool as I desire. I know I can take a shower and have clean clothes whenever I want. I know I can buy “it” if I forgot “it”. I have an ID and insurance and if I lose my cards, I can replace them with minimal effort because I have an address.
I was taken aback the other day when one of our homeless had lost her wallet when she was sleeping on the train the night before. “It had everything I have in it! My ID, my money…! What am I going to do? How can I survive? I’m just trying to survive!” I thought about my life. My surviving takes a LOT less effort than hers does. I thought about why I want to survive and realized that it’s because of my relationships. I’m heading home to be with my family to celebrate my birthday and Thanksgiving. My heart is filled love and anticipation. Today at Siena House, my ministry site, we celebrated my birthday and Thanksgiving with takeout Chinese food and cake. My day was filled with love, hugs and fist bumps from staff and moms.
As the Dominicans say “at the heart of ministry is relationship”.
I realize that I can’t survive without relationships. It’s because of loving relationships that I WANT to survive. My God is about relationships, about relationships based on love and kindness. I believe we need each other to survive. My God loves me unconditionally and I believe each of us is called to love that way and to allow ourselves to be loved that way.
As we enter into this holiday season, I pray that each of us will have the opportunity to allow ourselves to love and be loved, unconditionally.