The following article originally appeared on March 12, 2015 in the ‘In The Voices for Justice’ blog by Ignatian Solidarity Network’ (link can be found here). Many thanks to Jenn Svetlik from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. for her support and efforts in the process.
While many of Pete Seeger’s lyrics could have been written into a modern version of the gospel, he literally spoke to a biblical truth when he wrote the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in the late 1950s. Using the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, the message calls for finding balance in the commotion of the daily grind. The song’s title alludes to the inevitability of time and its inability to be controlled, challenging people to reflect on how they will manage their time.
In December, I passed the point where I had spent more time in Peru as a Jesuit Volunteer than I have remaining in the country. It marks the transition between my first year and second year, a transition that I did not expect to be so challenging. After hosting friends and family for two consecutive months, receiving a new community (the new JVs came and the outgoing JV left in December), and changing my job placement, my emotions have been strong and scattered. The goodbyes that meant I would not see my loved ones for another year sent waves of gratitude and pangs of nostalgia through my body. The visceral feeling of all of this transition made my remaining commitment of another year feel long.
Between reading a recent article by the modern Jesuit genius Brendan Busse, SJ on rest, stating that it was necessary for personal growth and integration in our lives, and having The Byrds’ version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” on my iPod, I took it as a sign to take a break and escape.
I received the blessing of my community to take a few days to myself. I decided to create an opportunity for R-cubed — rest, relaxation and reflection — a play on the idea of R&R (rest and relaxation). This meant only talking to the housekeeper of the retreat house every once in a while. The silence was holy and emphasized the loudness of being quiet.
At times, my ego and pride prohibits me from saying “no” or from admitting that I need time to myself. To surrender to too many demands or commit to too many opportunities can do more harm than good when not balanced with R-cubed. Justice-focused work can be chaotic, and being caught in the franticness of my volunteer commitment has probably neutralized the work I have done. I have learned throughout this time, though, that to have a bold voice and loud actions, time for regeneration is necessary.
The journey of a pilgrim is hardly defined by the number of miles traveled in a day. Rather, the journey is shaped by the attentive time spent dedicated to one’s surroundings and people.
To continue the camino in which I have embarked, I needed a break—a break to appreciate what the past fourteen months have provided: learning, being accompanied by the people of Andahuaylillas, opportunities to say yes to the next steps, and moments to check-in with myself in this confusing current state of transition and anticipation for what comes next. For every season, there is a time to work diligently, and a time to listen to the wise words of Pete Seeger and relax.