Serving Others and Complicated Feelings

By Nicolette Tiernan, FC 18 Syracuse2016-08-21 12.36.08 (3)

“The purpose of guilt is to bring us closer to the Lord, after that it has no purpose.”  – Mother Teresa

Ever since going on my first service trip as an undergrad student I have struggled with describing exactly how service work makes me feel. On one hand, engaging in service is fulfilling and joyful. Whenever I think about the service trips I went on the first thing that comes to mind is the people I met and the engaging conversations I had with them. Service work pushed me out of my comfort zones, out of the bubble I lived in at college, and opened my eyes to the “real world.” Reflecting on these memories makes me smile. On the other hand returning from service trips made me feel guilty and upset for not appreciating all of the blessings I have in my life. The guilt that comes along with service work is sometimes overwhelming and learning how to deal with those feelings and turn them into positive outcomes has been difficult for me.

I often brought up this feeling of guilt to one of my mentors at school and she would tell me that God does not want us to feel guilty for engaging in service. Sure, it is not easy to internalize and rationalize the poverty and injustice we’re exposed to while doing service work, but we can take that guilt, and turn it into acts of love and kindness. By spreading love in small ways throughout our daily lives, we bring the Gospel to life.

Every day as a volunteer is different. Some days are more mentally and emotionally tolling than others, but through reflection and community I have been learning how to deal with the guilt that comes along with working at the food pantry. Sometimes I leave work feeling discouraged and upset, but more often I feel inspired by the clients and volunteers who come to and work at the food pantry.

Being a year long volunteer has been very different than going on a service immersion trip. I have developed relationships with the clients who come to the pantry that go far beyond the usual “hello, how are you today?” and those relationships continue to deepen everyday. There are days where I feel tired and defeated when leaving work, but those days are greatly outnumbered by the ones where I feel overjoyed and thankful to be doing the service that I am.

My relationship with God is constantly growing and evolving and I am learning how to take the guilt that comes along with service work and change it into actions of kindness and love, which brings me closer to God.

Sacrifices

By Veronica Hotovy, FC 18 Costa Rica2016-08-21 12.36.24 (3)

When I first arrived in Costa Rica, people frequently commented on all of the things I was giving up in order to be a part of FrancisCorps. These conversations always struck me as a little strange because I didn’t really see it that way. A year of simple living and volunteer ‘pay’ didn’t bother me. I was gaining the opportunity to live in another country for a year, to continue learning Spanish, to meet new people, to grow as an individual and in my spiritual life, to serve the Lord in a very specific way. It was a very glass-half-full outlook.

The things I’m gaining have not changed. I’m still astounded by the opportunity that I’ve been presented with here in Costa Rica. However, I have started to notice the things I’m giving up to be here.

Three weddings of very good friends. A family reunion. My grandpa’s 90th birthday. The leaves changing in the fall. Snow and sweaters and scarves. The warm summer rain. Nebraska sunsets. Authentic tacos. Hamburgers. Sweet corn from the field. Saturday donuts with my aunt and grandpa. Seeing my friend from Chile. Driving.

A year with my family and friends. A year at home.

It’s harder than I first realized.

That doesn’t change the wonders that Costa Rica has brought me. It doesn’t make my experience here any less of a blessing. But I did give up a lot to come here. I wouldn’t change my decision to join FrancisCorps. I’m thankful for all of the friends I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned, and the adventures I’ve had. And I’m thankful for all of those that are sure to come. I’ve simply become more aware of the things I had to leave behind. But there’s beauty in sacrifice. There is love in sacrifice.