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"I'm not going away" - Serving by Staying

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Serving by Staying

Last week, as ACE teammates from across America gathered together for our annual spring retreat, we were both embraced and pushed by the words of Father Timothy Radcliffe, O.P. Throughout the day, he shared stories and reminders from the Bible, challenging us to think about ways in which we bring hope to the children and families we serve. A week later, we are still doing further reflection on his call to bring hope through praying, singing, and staying.

"Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" As we prepare to contemplate the Passion and death of Jesus in the coming days, I’m always especially haunted by Christ’s words on the Cross – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus seems especially human in this moment, and these words often bring me deep sadness as I not only seek to understand Christ’s feeling of abandonment but know that this is a particular agony that many in our world and our communities experience. Perhaps all of us have known or will know this pain in one way or another or maybe we’ve witnessed someone else experience abandonment or act out of fear of it.

“I’m not going away” is one of the most powerful things we can hear from another or say to another.

We often think about service as love in action, but sometimes, we can live out our value of serving by simply staying. “I’m not going away” is one of the most powerful things we can hear from another or say to another. Staying with someone can be transformative for their beliefs about themselves, their situation, and even about God. In big ways and in daily decisions, we can ask ourselves:For whom are we called to stay?

I used to eat lunch a couple times a week with my homeroom seventh-grade class. It was a great way to connect and learn so many wonderful things about each student. One student, Justin, ate much more slowly than the others and was often left at the table when the class went out to recess. On the days I ate lunch there, I would stay, but never thought to ask others to do so as well. One day, another student, David, saw Justin’s face fall, as it always did while the class was cleaning up to go play. David responded by saying with enthusiasm, “I’ll stay with you!” As the weeks went on, more and more students remained at the table until they made it a class-wide norm–"we stick together until we are all ready to go outside!"

Each day we are called to dig in, to do the good that is given us to do this day, and live our vocation as a path to holiness. As we seek opportunities to serve, we are invited to continue to pray about these questions: For whom are we called to stay?In what way do we have an opportunity to stay? It might be by staying with someone as they finish a meal, staying engaged in a conversation until a student is finished sharing their thoughts, or showing another we haven’t given up on them. When we allow our hearts to be moved by Jesus’ words and by others who might feel abandoned in any way, we can serve by staying and be a sign of the love of God who stays until the end of time.