“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”
My thoughts exactly today. The words of Nouwen capture it so well.
I desire more and more the simplicity of loving the neighbor kids; it’s so simple, but I can see the power of it here every day. But it slowly becomes clouded–by me: by my desire to have value, to have a place; to feel like I’m a part of a cause for social change.
Recently, I have been getting more and more excited about Christmas at home with our families. Really excited. So much excitement, that I’m getting nervous about January.
I know we should be here; I know this is right. But it’s been so hard.
I’m scared that three weeks with family and friends–just enough time to love it and celebrate each little thing, but not enough time to get tired of any of it–might be hard to leave behind.
I began to think today: is it worth leaving all of that behind for this? We’ve been here a year, and there are so many things still…out of place. Still out of place of where I envisioned it.
(Therein lies the problem, I suppose: where I envision it.)
But as I began to think of this today, I realized that most of the ways I envisioned this included me having a clear place and clear purpose, and then seeing that purpose carried out. My vision involves me making a valuable difference; being a part of the solution. It’s hard to find significance in the little smiles on children’s faces, the little prayer for a weary mother, the persistent request for Burma to be free, and countless emails to volunteers.
I begin to wonder what I’m contributing, and if it is meaningful enough to turn around and walk into this all over again.
Nouwen’s words pull me back here. They remind me that being late for the meeting isn’t nearly as important as hearing out the woman speaking to me passionately in another language. They remind me that I’m called to nothing less than loving the person in front of me, whether I’m in Mae Sot or Chicago.