The following article originally appeared on September 5, 2014 in the ‘In The Voices for Justice’ blog by Ignatian Solidarity Network. It can be found at http://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2014/09/05/jesuit-volunteer-reflects-aaa-roadside-assistance-isnt-available/ . Many thanks to Colleen Kennedy from JVC for her support and efforts in the process.
“What we grasp, gives us knowledge. What we let grasp us, gives us wisdom.”
-Sr. Peggy O´Neill, S.C.
Before I came here, a mentor of mine had told me to be open—to change, to the adventure, to the stories, to everything. I find consistently that being open requires a holistic effort. Often, I am challenged in my experiences physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Despite the sometimes arduous task of being present, my most joy-filled moments thus far in Peru have been when I have been most opened, or to re-state Sr. Peggy O’Neill, most willing to be grasped. Whether that is jumping in a driver’s seat or sitting in a kitchen with women learning about their lives while peeling potatoes, these are the moments I will walk away from this experience remembering with fondness and fullness.
Part of my experience of Ignatian Spirituality and Jesuit-informed solidarity has been to open myself to find graces in the situation at hand, or the person in front of me. It’s to practice attentive listening, which could translate to attentive openness. The moments that have been most challenging have often come from a place of being closed to my community, to my students, to my friends, or more so, to the opportunity and experience at hand. They have been when I am too busy in my head or in my loneliness to open my hands and heart to receive the joy and life that surrounds me here.
It was a chilly Friday in the late afternoon, and surrounding us was a rich, golden sunlight that filled the hills of Andahuaylillas, Peru. Mycompañero, Alfredo, and I were going to Yuttu, a rural community of Andahuaylillas, for catechism classes, or better known as soccer and singing. Half way through the trip, the car broke down due to a cable that had become unplugged. The car was parked right in the middle of the road, and the driver wanted to turn the car around to roll down the hill to town. Since AAA is not yet present for roadside assistance in rural Peru, the men hopped behind the car to push and, at their request, I jumped in the driver’s seat to steer. After a five-point turn, the car was on its way to town, and Alfredo and I ascended on foot, laughing at the scene of what had just happened. On the way home, we hitch-hiked to catch the last remaining car back to Andahuaylillas: a political rally’s cattle truck. These are just examples of the testament to expect the unexpected here, as every day seems to bring silly stories.
Living with an openness to participate in the adventure, the silly story, or the meaningful conversations further expand my heart and perspective. By no means do I say I have the secret code to doing this all the time or every day, but it has changed my understanding of myself, of my life in Andahuaylillas, and the way I hope to move in the world after my time with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Here’s to open hearts, willing hands, and an eagerness to let it embrace us.