Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Art of Sitting

Sitting. I realized the other day how complex it really is. I had the opportunity to visit the wonderful volunteer community of Rostro de Cristo this past weekend. It’s a community in Southern Ecuador, in a town called Duran. Coincidentally, I visited this community 2.5 years ago and it was there I realized my call to do service in Latin America.

And so going back to Duran was moving. I saw some of the same sights and met with some of the same people that moved me to move to Latin America. And in the process, I did a lot of sitting. Entering people’s houses and over the course of hours, just talking. It’s a common theme of almost any international volunteer experience. And it’s the part I struggle with most.

But this past weekend in Duran I sat like a true champ. I looked at photos of a family and volunteers I didn’t know and as they shared their story with me I shared mine with them. I soaked in sweat and gulfed down some of the best Arroz con Pollo I’ve ever had. I played dominos with a group of elderly, outcast lepers for hours on end. And in all three situations- I shared in the quiet, sometimes awkward solitude of companionship. I learned to just “be.”

In many ways, we are called less to be servants and more to be present to people. It shouldn’t excuse us from working where we are called, even needed, but rather it should permeate in our work in such a way that we never lose sight of what, or that is to say- who, we are working for.

You can only fight so much for a cause you don’t intimately know. If you want to learn about poverty, if you want to learn about love, reading Jeff Sachs poverty book isn’t enough. You have to meet the people that embody the experience. You have to embrace who they are in such a way where both their unjust suffering and their inexplicable joy infiltrate your defenses so you connect with them. And you’d want to do anything to eradicate the injustice that victimizes them.

And so, bringing this back home, I have a simple challenge this holiday season. May we all can try and see the world less through the marketing of “presents” and more through the challenge of giving all of ourselves through “presence” to those we love, and even those we don’t know. Sit with people and learn their stories. And in the process of sharing your own story, you might even learn a little more about who you really are. Happy Holiday’s Y’all.

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