Saying “yes” to ACE was the most hesitant “yes” I have ever said. For the first time, I jumped blindly into something with no way of knowing how I might come out on the other side.
When I found out I was going to be living and teaching in Brownsville, Texas, for two years, it felt like Steve Harvey crowning the wrong 2015 Miss Universe contestant. They probably read the wrong name. I knew that I had agreed to being displaced, but moving to Texas was not my plan. While I was on the mission to seek answers, Fr. Joe Carey told me that the Holy Spirit guided me there. Well, I thought the Holy Spirit was guiding me to L.A. or New York. Why would the Holy Spirit guide me to a place where I didn’t want to go? Everyone knows, however, that you can never disagree with FJ or the Holy Spirit.
Early in my experience in Brownsville, I slowly started to notice what I call “window moments,” or moments of clarity that revealed the reasons why I was there. These happened at school, in my ACE community, in the community of Brownsville, and often at times when I least expected them. In these moments, God taught me about the right order of things–that when we deepen our trust in Him in times of uncertainty, we will begin to find our way.
Window moments often occur in small ways. The sigh of relief of sitting down at my desk at 5 p.m. for the first time that day, looking at the papers thrown all over my desk, and feeling content that I gave that day every last ounce of energy I had. Sunset runs through my favorite neighborhood. Staying up late with community members, not because I planned to, but because I enjoyed the late night laughs. All of these small moments suggest that I am in the right place at the right time.
A particular window moment that gave me a sense of clarity was when I met one of my personal heroes, Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ. For years, I have admired Sr. Norma’s courage and perseverance in leading community efforts to respond to the influx of Central American refugees seeking asylum in the United States. This meeting reminded me of the purpose and mission of working in the Catholic Church, especially in the Rio Grande Valley.
Within the greater community of Brownsville, I remember when my flamenco team performed as part of the Baile del Sol Festival. I was nervous for my flamenco debut, waiting in place for the music that didn’t start when it was supposed to. Some of us started anyway, which led to off-key stomping and a mess of ruffled black and white skirts flying through the air. I was laughing and looked around at the crowd dressed in traditional Charro Days attire applauding in encouragement. I smiled and thought, “Okay, God, this is pretty great.”
ACE teachers are humbly called to faithfulness in the midst of displacement. During my 23-hour, 1,497-mile drive back to the U.S.-Mexico border this past August, I thought about the reasons why I was again saying “yes” to displacement. Of course, I pictured the 70 little energetic, sometimes ornery faces that would be waiting outside of my room on the first day of school. But I also recalled the hope of the window moments. In those moments of encounter, triumph, and trial, I noticed the ways God was working in my life. They gave me hope that I was in the right place.
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