By Nicolette Tiernan, FC 18 Syracuse
“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.