Thursday, November 17, 2016

For the Beauty of the Earth

It is hard to comprehend that next week is Thanksgiving already. It has been almost three months in Erie, and life is a never ending flow of beautiful surprises:

One was a trip to Niagara Falls. The size of Niagara alone is impressive and the tons of water flowing continuously over the sides is awe inspiring. As I stood along the edge, listening to the roar of the water and the gusts of wind through the trees, I heard something else as well. During our time at the falls, I counted at least four languages other than English. There were people from all parts of the world stopping at this wonder of nature and appreciating the beauty. The beauty of the falls speaks to everyone, no matter the language or culture.

The beauty of music has been a constant in my life, but at the Art House I got to experience the feeling of being in awe of music through the eyes of a 12-year-old. A few weeks ago, I was given an assignment by one of my students to listen to the soundtrack to a certain videogame. I did my homework and brought back the melody of the score for her to play. We sight-read the music together. Suddenly, she recognized the melody. Her eyes lit up and she grinned. She looked over at me and said, “Thank you.” She looked back at the music, still smiling and asked, “Can we play it again?” It was privilege to be a witness to her first taste of the beauty of playing piano.

Beauty at Saint Benedict’s Education Center is seen in the meeting of races, languages and cultures of the refugees. However, one vocabulary lesson was particularly challenging. The teacher was explaining that a family is typically a parent or parents and children. One of our Syrian refugees took out his phone in an attempt to translate. Once he understood, he began to type quickly. Google translate spoke, “I understand, but all Syrians are all one family.” This was a much needed reminder that we all belong to one another.

I’m currently reading the book, Becoming Wise by Krista Tippet, a broadcaster for National Public Radio. In it she includes interviews with people from all different faith traditions, commenting on what it means to be human. One man, Xavier Le Pichon, commented profoundly on love:

“ … once you enter into this way of … walking with the suffering person who has come into your life and whom you have not rejected, your heart progressively gets educated by them. They teach you a new way of being … . My heart cannot be educated by myself ... . And if we accept being educated by others, to let them explain to us what happens to them, and to let yourself be immersed in their world so that they can get into our world, then you begin to share something very deep. You will never be the person in front of you, but you will have created what we call communion.”

My heart has been continually educated over the past three months. It has been stretched, widened, broken and embraced by people from all around the world. To walk with the refugee, to listen to the child or to live with a sister takes a continual opening of each other’s hearts to one another’s suffering and beauty. This widening makes my heart tender and vulnerable and it is difficult to remind myself that what I do is worthwhile despite the pain of carrying someone’s sufferings with me. I have to believe that even though our hearts are being torn, the love and beauty we find together is worth it. I have to believe that making someone feel needed, accepted and loved is worthy of our hearts. I have to believe that beauty will keep calling us back to communion, whether it is in nature, music or the wonder of our human family.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that my heart has been entrusted to these people for a short while.

Peace and prayers,

Erin Carey, BWSC Volunteer



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