“The word is patience.”

By Marie Schrampfer, FC 17 SyracuseBishop Foery 1

“The word is patience.” That’s what one of the Bishop Foery kids has been telling me almost every day for the past couple weeks. “The word is patience.” She was standing at the door, knocking loudly and waiting not-so-patiently for someone to let her in. When I finally got there, we had a conversation about that little word “patience,” and now every time I open the door she reminds me: “the word is patience.”

She’s right. More right than she probably realizes. And sometimes, I think I need the reminder more than she does. The word is patience, and every day she tells me that, I realize yet again just what those eight little letters have come to mean to me.

Patience means working for seven months and not seeing any big changes, but still trying to find joy and contentment in the little, day-to-day moments. Like the time when the girl who doesn’t really like to read actually picked up a book to practice reading to one of the volunteers. Or when the boy suddenly realized he enjoyed his math homework, and began asking for a fraction worksheet every day so he could go on being the “Fraction King,” as we’ve started to call him. Or when that little guy ran up to me – absolutely beaming – and showed me the report card that he’s been working so hard to improve. None of those are big things, certainly not “seven months later” kinds of things. But they are good things. And isn’t that what patience is all about?

Patience means facing the daily grind, the mundane, the reality that even those little victories don’t happen every day. Some days really are a struggle – a struggle to work with kids that don’t respect me and a culture I don’t always understand. All I can do on those days is just keep going, and try to remind myself of those little joys I have witnessed, the tiniest of victories that show that there is a whole lot of good in store for us all one day. And isn’t that what patience is all about?

Patience means still trying to build relationships with those fifth graders that make the daily grind such a struggle. That one group that has been the biggest challenge from the beginning, the kids that rolled their eyes and cursed under their breath and sometimes just ignored me completely. But lately, it’s been a slightly different story. Lately, it’s been “Miss Marie, wanna play Trash? You didn’t wear your lucky bracelet today, did you?” It’s been talking basketball and waving to me from the side of the road when I drive by. They still might not like me. But maybe, just maybe, they don’t seem to hate me anymore. And isn’t that what patience is all about?

Patience means “being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).Things will be complete someday. But not yet. It’s a time we can only work and wait for. And isn’t that what patience is all about?

My little Bishop Foery kid was right: the word is patience. And seven months into my FrancisCorps experience, it’s a word I need to remember. It’s a word that reminds me to look for the little victories each and every day as I go about the routine that has become so familiar and is sometimes such a struggle. It’s a word that reminds me that God is at work, and that someday His work will be complete. It’s a word I need to remember.

I hope she keeps reminding me.

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A big big house…

By Corrinne Burns, FC 17 Syracuseimg_0780.jpg

I remember laying on the floor of my older sister’s apartment two nights before I was leaving for Syracuse.  We had spent a long day playing beach volleyball, eating ice cream and making the most of those last few days with my friends before my entire life shifted gears.  As we played some strange galactic version of Settlers of Catan I was making mental checklists of what I still needed to pack.

Of course I read the “packing list” a dozen times but it wasn’t the most helpful document.  Would I need my tennis racquets?  How many pairs of shoes was it acceptable to bring?  Would it be “uncool” of me to pack my treasured stuffed animals?  What was the dress code going to be at my placement site and at Mass?  I spent most of my packing time sitting in the middle of my room at home deliberating over these questions and others like them.  In the end, I just packed everything.  Before we left, my dad made me remove several books from my ottoman-library (which weighed about 60 lbs.) insisting that the friars would have books I could read.  My parents were dropping me off in our minivan and we could take out all the seats and pile it high with stuff.  I thought it was better to take too much than to forget important items (such as my entire collection of art supplies).

I had no idea what to expect in the house.  I had studied it endlessly on Google Maps but I couldn’t see the inside.  I had some preconceived ideas about what exactly simple living meant and I knew I wouldn’t want to spend much of my stipend so I stocked up on stuff I might need before we made it to Syracuse.

It’s a big house.  Eight bedrooms, 2 full baths, 3 living/gathering spaces, a walk-in pantry, and a basement longing for a mural to be painted in.  The house gave the 5 of us lots of breathing room.  Even before the FrancisCorps Costa Rica volunteers left there was room for the 9 of us to be comfortable. Our pantry, linen closet, utility room, and board game supply were stocked. Suddenly, all my stuff turned into clutter and an overflowing closet.

More importantly than having a fully furnished house, our personalities and community laughs began to fill the spaces where that one pair of shoes I had left at home might have been.  My Christmas blanket and ice skates certainly came in handy in community life but all the stuff I brought could not begin to compare to the smiles, memories, and laughs that everyone else had brought.

Simple living had nothing to do with the amount of stuff I had stashed in my little room (although I had worried it might) but much more to do with the role that stuff played in my life.  I certainly didn’t need to bring (or own) 32 dresses but there’s joy in being able to match my community members at any given time.  There’s a couple of bikes in the basement but bringing my own reminds me of home and allows for someone else to use a hand-me-down bike to accompany me on the adventure that are New York hills.  The use of my stuff is a good thing as long as it doesn’t detract from the value of a FrancisCorps experience.

My parents are coming for a visit soon and I’ll probably send some things back with them now that I know all my worries about stuff aren’t important.  In the end, I’ll never really need any of it when the stuff my community members’ souls are made of is the same as mine.