By Kaitlyn Sterneker, FC 18 Syracuse
To say I’ve met a wide range of people during my service year would be an understatement. Between the residents of Francis House, the family and friends, my fellow volunteers, benefactors and supporters of FrancisCorps, and the general community of neighbors, friars, sisters, and friends we meet throughout the year, there is no lack of love or support during the year. Each of these people holds a special place in my life story. As I sit and reflect on the fact I’m over halfway through the year (crazy how time flies), I can feel the sadness overwhelm me at the idea of having to say goodbye. I came into this year without grasping the reality that many of these relationships are – in a way – temporary. The temporary nature of relationships became increasingly evident when I would walk into my service site after the weekend to find out the “see you later” spoken to a resident with whom I had a new and blossoming relationship would never come, instead finding an empty room. There is no guarantee I’ll see the family again. There is no guarantee I’ll work with certain volunteers again. There is no guarantee the opportunity to come back and visit Syracuse will arise. There is no guarantee that even in the age of social media; the friendships I build up here will stay as strong once the year is over.
Even as reality hits that so many of the amazing relationships I build up here could be temporary, it only motivates me to continue to build the most authentic and loving relationships as possible. Every smile, every hug, and every minute of holding a resident’s hand are some of the most important moments in my life. While my actions may help in brightening someone’s day or helping them to feel loved and cared for, the gift that is given to me is infinitely better. The love radiates and I realize how truly special, amazing, and welcoming people are. Whether the relationship is built within a week or throughout the years, the feelings and special moments have changed me forever.
As St. Francis of Assisi said: “Remember that when you leave this earth, you take with you nothing you have received…only what you have been given: a full heart enriched by honesty, love, sacrifice, and courage.”
I challenge everyone to have the courage to build authentic and intentional relationships, no matter how temporary the relationships might be. I have realized that the most meaningful moments and powerful have developed from those relationships. One of the hardest things for me is saying goodbye and knowing I may never see some people again, but I hope they know I pray in thanksgiving to God every day for how much they have impacted my life and taught me how to cultivate love. I know now that there is no expiration date on love.