Throughout the school day, I often struggle to find the right words to say to our students. Sometimes they approach me or I just happen to be there when they are “in it” as one of our students likes to say. They come to us from the depths of their own darkness or from the heights of their anxiety. I know these places well, and yet I almost always find myself wandering around my brain looking for the right thing to say. In these moments, I sometimes feel bad for the students; as I say when I am substitute teaching, unfortunately they are stuck with me.
While I still feel wholly inadequate, I have learned to step back and see these moments in a different light. At the end of the day, my community member and I share our highs and lows. We discuss in detail all of the moments – big and small – where we felt useful, useless, elated, and frustrated. After our review, I sometimes think about how those moments, whether high or low, are all moments of encounter. That is, small instances where we expose our vulnerabilities and experience true communion.
These instances are key to Advent, when we prepare to encounter the Kingdom of God. On Christmas we meet God in the flesh; the infant Jesus communes with us in our vulnerable human state. Likewise our highs, lows, and in-betweens are where we are called to encounter each other in our vulnerability.
We might feel like we are not enough. I suspect that the Blessed Mother also felt this way as she gave her ‘Yes.’ The difference is that perhaps Mary knew that she was intentionally ‘stuck with’ Christ. Though feeling unworthy, she trusted that she was chosen on purpose. I find it comforting to think that in a similar way, we as volunteers have been intentionally placed with our students, our clients, and our community members. Rather than being ‘stuck with’ each other, we have been called to encounter each other.
This Advent and this holiday season, I hope that we can all find solace in the fact that our placements, our jobs, or our vocations, are not accidents. Like the Incarnation, these are moments in our lives that are meant for encounter. Encounter is, after all, where we experience the Kingdom of God.
Collier Youth Services
New Jersey Community, ‘17-‘18