By Matthew Grothaus, FC 19 CR
So one of the things I find most amazing about FrancisCorps as an entity is its focus on relationships. The group, from the individual volunteers to the director, all seem aware that quite often it is the relationships one forms that can be the greatest source of personal growth and discovery. Don’t get me wrong, the work here in Costa Rica is definitely a challenge and the process of moving to a new country and living in community with other volunteers is certainly a source of growth. However, even within these settings, I can’t help but feel that what I will carry with me at the end of this year are memories of the people or that even if I won’t remember from whom, I will remember that most of the changes to my worldview have been brought about by some interaction with another person. I think I’ve taken this particularly to heart because in my work site Manos Abierta, a hospital for children with disabilities, a vast majority of the patients are nonverbal, adding another layer to the process of forming relationships.
As of now, I have just over a month’s experience working with them and for the first time, today a new volunteer came in to begin his work at the hospital. It wasn’t until after showing him around and interacting with all of the kids like I normally do during work that he pointed out to me how much different patients will light up or react to these small interactions. I realized how much I feed off of those small moments where someone “lights up” and use that energy to rejuvenate myself during the work day. In a way both innately understood by people and also supported scientifically, humans are just so clearly meant to be social. Even in the basic tenets of christian faith it is explained that wherever two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them. We are meant to be together and form relationships. I think one of the basic realizations that brings many people to the point of dedicating part of their lives to service is recognizing that “the other” they are going to serve is someone created and loved equally by God. Someone that once you interact with, you quite often realize is no different than yourself.
I’ve loved continuing that realization here. My new friend that has begun volunteering just happens to live with some others and has had a tough time. They rarely spend time together even when all in the house but here, with FrancisCorps, the relationships you can form are held so highly. Our entire community of volunteers gathers at least once a day to share a meal and later to share prayer. At work, I’m explicitly encouraged to form connections and the friars we interact with have quickly become friends. Simply having the outlook of going out and being amongst what you don’t always understand until you see God in it, has helped me have a great many impactful opportunities in only this first month and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.