• June 5, 2013

Jessica A. - Dakar, Senegal 2013-2014

"Everyone has some­thing in common with us: they are made in the image of God! They are chil­dren of God!. Being open to an encounter with everyone, without nego­ti­ating the faith we belong to. And this is impor­tant: espe­cially with the poor. If we step out­side our­selves, we find poverty." -Pope Francis, homily on Pentecost Sunday

I had much of my life planned out: finish school in the next two years, then think about other things after­ward. However, some­thing was just not quite right and an overall rest­less­ness started to res­onate in my heart the fur­ther I got into making grand plans for the next semester. I was starting to feel very turned in on myself, and the rest­less­ness con­tinued to build. I was feeling less and less like a gift of self in all that I did. That is until one day I found myself vis­iting a local hos­pital where I met two amazing elderly women who unbe­knownst to their minds sick with Alzheimer’s, dras­ti­cally changed my focus on just about every aspect of my life. One woman was Mrs. Frances Marsh, a 96 year old woman suf­fering with the simple fact that she was still alive. As she spoke to me about the pain she’s enduring my heart began to reach out and sync into union with hers, while simul­ta­ne­ously my hands to her hands did the same. My ear was inclined to her, my whole being becoming hers as I started to under­stand what it means to be a gift. Presence is a gift. Toward the end of our con­ver­sa­tion that day Mrs. Frances com­mented on my smiling face and then looked me dead in the eye and probed my heart by asking, "Why are you here? What are you doing here? You are so young… of all the things you could be doing with your time, what are you doing at this hos­pital with me?" I left the hos­pital that day with a heavy heart and a deep sad­ness at the thought of con­tin­uing with my life the way I had it planned out… The still­ness in my heart assured me that this is what I want to do with my time… I want to spend my time with the simple people like Mrs. Frances, who just need a pres­ence. God spoke gently to my heart on the car ride back to campus from that hos­pital and revealed that rest­less­ness and ache were leading me to vol­un­teer with Heart’s Home, an orga­ni­za­tion that through a couple of visits to in Brooklyn, had a mis­sion that was deeply aligning with the desires of my heart.

In July, I hope to go to Dakar, Senegal where I hope to be a wit­ness of an encounter with Love in the faces of chil­dren of all ages whether 5 or 96, only through encoun­tering Love Himself in the Eucharist. However I cannot and do not want to do this alone! Let us go to Senegal together where I will carry you in my heart, my words, and in every step. Join with me, for I cannot do this without you! Let us step out­side of our­selves together to find within us the poverty that unites us all. Let us be love together! Let us live a life of urgent love together.

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