Are there ever things you think you know, lessons you think you’ve learned, until suddenly you are faced with a situation that makes you say (to quote a dear friend) “touché world”? The Benedictines might call this humility – the practice and development of a more realistic understanding of ourselves in relation to God and in relation to the world around us. My “touché world” moment came with lots of tears, frenzied goodbyes and a disorienting relocation back home. The lesson I thought I had learned? Mungu Akipenda. From the beginning, I tried to approach this experience with surrender. Not my will, not my wishes, not my expectations. I felt that Tanzania had made me a master of this. Take whatever comes, as it comes, bless that situation with your true presence without getting lost in your own narrow expectations. I thought, “Done. Check. Next of the list of self-improvements?” Then, I was asked to return home before I had planned. Touché world. Touché God.
Now, humbled, I write looking out to familiar iron gates, pines and cobblestone paths. But I’ve begun a new, completely unfamiliar experience living with the sisters at St. Bens for the last months of my volunteer experience. Already, living here has carried its own set of challenges and rewards.
As part of our continued service, Ashley and I spend one day a week at St. Scholastica’s in St. Cloud, the home for retired sisters of this community. One of these days, while visiting with one of the sisters, she reminded me of something very important. “Each morning,” she said, “my friend comes down to my room and we talk about the gospel, to see what we still have to learn.” I imagined how easy it would be after experiencing so much to lose that will to learn. Her persistence amazed me. Thank you, Sister, for reminding me that the beauty of living is in endless seeking rather than discovering. In my remaining time here and after, I hope this wisdom is able to permeate the strong shell of “I know” that surrounds my smallness, my humanness and informs my thoughts and actions each day.