By Brady Kegley, FC 17 Costa Rica
I am accustomed to a fairly face paced lifestyle. When I lived in the US, if you’d have asked me, I’d probably have agreed with you, but it’s not something I ever spent too much time thinking about. The US is a pretty faced paced country, and I was just keeping up with the flow. Running from one meeting to the next, squeezing in time for meals as I could, keeping phone calls short and succinct so I could get on with the next task at hand. It just seemed natural and very in sync with all my classmates, friends, and family.
The life I was accustomed to, however, changed once I arrived in Costa Rica. The lifestyle here is very “tranquilo” as the Ticos would say. Very laid back, calm, and definitely not overly scheduled. From the first day we arrived, I could feel myself getting antsy and impatient with the flow of things. I couldn’t have put my finger exactly on what was bothering me, just that the way I wanted things was not the way they happened. I wanted to eat, but we had to wait an extra hour for someone to arrive. When I wanted to know the plan down to the minute, I instead received a vague outline. I noted the effect in my community, where I grew frustrated during long conversations about tasks that I was used to deciding in minutes when I had lived alone.
I didn’t realize, however, how much the pace I was used to was clashing with the flow of Costa Rica until one day at work. My placement is in the physical therapy department at Hogar Santiago Crespo, a home for senior citizens. When residents are finished with their therapy, I accompany them back to their rooms, walking with them or pushing them in a wheelchair. I found myself growing impatient one day, walking with a resident who stopped walking whenever he spoke. A walk that would take me less than a minute took us more than 10 minutes. As we reached his room, though, his joy was palpable, and as he wrapped me in a hug and thanked me for taking the time to go with him, I realized all I would have missed out on if we’d had a quick walk. I was able to spend time really getting to know him, giving him the time and attention he deserves. And what was I in a rush to get back to anyway? Another time, a resident asked me to push her in a different route than the one I was going to take, the route which lead directly to her room. When I asked her why, she told me, “because I like to spend more time outside and walking with you!” My heart broke a little. What am I there for if not to spend time with these residents whom I have grown to love so dearly? It doesn’t pay to plan how I’ll work with the next resident if I can’t even be present to the one I’m currently attending.
I try to keep these lessons in mind as I continue to walk with residents, seeking the enjoyment in each moment. Even if we are not talking, the presence, the love shown in simply being with someone is enough. I have found this to hold true not only at work, but in all aspects of my life here. There is no rush to make decisions with my community, because there is fruit to be found in all of our time spent together. And what is the use of rushing off to complete an errand if it means I can’t enjoy the beautiful scenery, God’s gifts of the mountains and the tress and the birds on the way? I am finding more and more that it is in being truly present that I find the time to breathe and see God. It’s harder to find him when I’m always ten minutes in the future, thinking about what I have to do next!
It is hard, at times, to try to keep from running the race to get to what’s next- to plan for the future and anxiously await the next meal, the next day, the next step. In these times, I like to take a breath, take in the beauty around me, and see what I could be missing if I wasn’t paying attention. I also find it helpful to come back to one of my favorite prayers by a Jesuit named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It is a reminder that God works in slow and unknown ways. If I am able to put my trust in him, I don’t have to lose myself in the stress of planning and perfecting. I can accept the present with every bit of joy and sadness and stress and love that it might hold.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ