Monday, January 13, 2014

Never refuse a kindness.

At the end of my time at the Welcome Center, the sisters wanted me to tell them what I had learned.  I had some ideas, and I shared them, but in the back of my head, I knew that more lessons were coming.  The motto of our program, "One year to change a life," carries with it the imperative that the learning never stops.

Sr. Eileen was my direct supervisor while I worked in Philadelphia.  She is a social worker by training, and she is the director of the Welcome Center.  She helps people access particular services that they need and walks with people as they navigate new situations.  This is her "job description," but what she does every day goes far beyond that.  Over the course of my year, I noticed that if anyone offered to help, Sr. Eileen would make sure that there was something for them to do.  She is wonderful at inviting people to participate in the ministry of the Welcome Center in whatever way that they are able.

Moreover, she tried to teach this to me.  One day at the Welcome Center, I had a bunch of things that I needed to store while I was at work.  We were discussing where they might go, and I was gathering myself to bring them all downstairs.  Sr. Eileen offered to help me bring them downstairs, but I was feeling especially independent at that moment, so I told her I would do it.  The polite back and forth ensued, and it ended with her saying to me (of something she had learned in her SSJ training), "Never refuse a kindness."

All of that was rolling around in the recesses of my brain when one of my students from last semester stopped by my office today.  We spoke of the upcoming semester, and I told him that I would be teaching freshmen this time around.  He offered me his old labs from general chemistry so that I would have a better foundation for grading these students (having the answers and all).

Neurons fired in my brain at light speed: "it's general chemistry, how hard could it be?" "they give me a rubric, it won't be so difficult" and "I don't really need more things to clutter my desk."  All of that was ultimately pushed aside by remembering this: "He wants to help.  Let him help you."

Sr. Eileen's words have allowed me to understand something fundamental: people will bring you what they have.  Even if it is not what you want or need or expect, accepting what they offer with open and loving arms is the most important thing you can do for them.  Welcoming each person as they are lets them know that they matter, and that is a key part of being Christ for others.

I haven't received these lab reports yet, but when I do, I will be sure to smile and and thank my student.  Having those papers will serve to remind me that even if I already know all the chemistry on them, there is still more learning to do.