Erin Kennedy (CVV 17) is a nurse, a triplet and an avid runner. She is a ‘born and raised’ Coloradan with a special place in her heart for the mountains as well as the marginalized.
I think I can safely say that my year as a Colorado Vincentian Volunteer has shaped almost every facet of my life. Even still, 3 ½ years after my volunteer year ended, I find the Vincentian charism intertwined within my everyday existence. Here is one of my favorite quotes that I was introduced to during my year as a CVV, and continues to resonate with me:
“…It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them.” –St. Vincent de Paul
When I first heard this quote at the beginning of my year, I didn’t quite understand what it meant. However, I soon learned. After working as a nurse caring for the homeless (with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless) and now with our nation’s veterans (at the Denver VA Medical Center), I have learned that serving and caring for others can be a downright challenge. There is nothing glamorous about illness and medicine. Just like there is nothing alluring about poverty, hunger, loneliness, or homelessness. As a nurse, I often times see people at their worst. Many of the patients I care for on a daily basis are terminally ill, dying, homeless, or suffering from the withdrawal of drugs or alcohol. While at times, serving and caring for others is challenging in every aspect- mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually; I believe that through serving the vulnerable, we are touched by the pain of others, and from that, we make a commitment to enter into solidarity with them.
Each of us has a responsibility to others because each of our lives is directly connected. We each have “bread” to offer others. I have learned that it is not enough to be “for” those who are marginalized or ill. This implies a relationship built upon a power imbalance– and forms an attitude of separateness. To adequately serve others and carry out the Vincentian mission, we must stand in solidarity “with” those who are struggling. Solidarity is to enter into relationship with those on the margins, a relationship built on mutuality, trust, love, empathy, and selflessness. We cannot love God unless we love others, especially the most marginalized among us, and identify with them as sisters and brothers.
“We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.” –St. Vincent de Paul