Katie (CVV12) hails from the land of 10,000 lakes. She is a post-grad alum & has served as a CVV staff member for the past five years. Canoeing enthusiast and wannabe bee keeper, she is transitioning out of her staff role and asking big questions about the ways her heart has been changed on this journey.
I find that people have a keen sense of recognizing when something significant has happened in a person’s life, and that they want to ask about it. The problem, however is often –words. “How was your semester abroad?” “How was the wedding? “The funeral?” “What was that thing you did in Denver last year?” It can be a tight spot to articulate an answer that either satisfies their sincere curiosity or does justice to the significant part of the journey you might like to share. What I think the question boils down to is this: So, what?
This ‘so what’ question is one we ask at CVV, all of the time : During Reflection and Discussion, during men’s & women’s night, on the Waste Management tour, at the U.S./Mexico border. It is a way of acknowledging that the conversation is not over and that there may be some things for me to sit with, probably even struggle with after the conversation, tour or pilgrimage comes to a close. And it is the question I am sitting with today. So, what?
Sometimes I need to hear myself name what I’m wrestling with before I can completely embrace it. That something came out in spiritual direction a couple of months ago in a really cool, cohesive and collected way as so often is the case in spiritual direction (ha!). “Being home with my kids is where I am being invited to go which is exciting, and that means letting go of a job I love… People’s lives are deeply impacted over the course of one year of CVV and I’ve just finished my sixth! What on earth am I supposed to do with that?! What has happened to my heart during these six years?”
The answer to both of those questions: A lot.
It has celebrated with tears of joy as a homeless man who slept outside my office window each morning for years got into stable housing. It has listened as Jesus unexpectedly joined me at my work site as a disfigured African American woman with sass, and a difficult story. It has walked on the holy ground that is the heart transformations of volunteers who own their stories and their scars and come to see themselves as beloved. It has experienced the palpable, mystical love of community being held up by others on dark days. It has gotten goosebumps each year while listening to the wisdom and depth of love shared in the Stations of the Cross. It has broken bread in community hundreds of times. I has glimpsed that fuzzy yet familiar scene of resurrection over and over again.
It has donned and decorated ugly Christmas sweaters. It has dared greatly as I have shared my own story each fall, and while steering the (first) red truck off of I-25, smoke billowing from the hood. It has experienced solidarity and simplicity in many a rice and bean challenge and it has been thrilled by the excitement of partaking in meals at or past their expiration dates. It has celebrated with pride, graduations, school admittance, job offers and any number of achievements as alumni reach out and send updates. It has exploded with laughter as CVV Elvis serenaded senior citizens with ‘Devil in Disguise.’ It has worked hard to push the (second) red truck out of an intersection after stalling. It has thumped loudly while carrying cases of adult diapers and breast pumps on public transportation to service sites. It has nurtured two kiddos who have been lovingly adopted by each community of volunteers. It has a particular affinity for Pepperidge Farms cookies & Panera bread.
In short, this heart has been broken open and re-built many, many times.
Wise people like Untener, Oliver and Rilke assure me that it is likely that I do not (and perhaps may never) have the full picture of what this experience will mean. For as much practice as I have had with Theological Reflection, making meaning of the 105 volunteers and staff with whom I have journeyed through these houses on Pearl Street is not proving to be an easy task—but I have learned (at least) five things as a companion that I want to take with me:
–Bring a journal. I listened to a speaker once who mentioned that when an audience brings nothing to write with it can send the message that it has nothing to learn; which communicates a lot.
–God is in this mix: Mysteriously, boldly & always. You would only have to spend a week in this office to observe the way that even unspoken prayers are answered—how hastily, specifically and providentially the work of CVV is supported.
–Have conversations face to face. That is to say, I want to do myself and my relationships the favor of valuing them to the point of having challenging conversations… avoiding devices that would interfere with any conversation I could have in person.
–It is never about ‘them.’ (No matter how much I want it to be!) Universally the frustration I am trying to see past is heavily informed by my own quirks.
–Loving people turns your heart inside out [makes you vulnerable]. And that is a good thing. It is that topsy-turvy Gospel, agape love that likely means we’re moving in the right direction.
This experience has been pivotal in a personal way, and I have found that I continue to be deeply affected by the practice of accompaniment in the many forms that takes. I imagine that affect has a great deal to do with the authenticity, hilarity, honesty, growth, convictions, struggles and strengths that make up each person called by name to be a part of this community. Thank you.
It has been an honor to be on this journey with you.