I had just wheeled Sister Marie Louis back to her room in the infirmary after evening prayer. I found early on in the summer that each Little Sister has a way of wrapping you in the presence of God. In her twinkling eyes, Sister Marie Louise is no different. I am always reminded of how good God is when I depart her room. This day, as I made my way to leave, I kissed her on the cheek and she gripped my hand.
“You’re lucky,” she said, as if the status of my luck was a matter of fact.
I looked at her puzzled. We had just been talking about how hard it was going to be for me to leave this place. The Jeanne Jugan Residence quickly became a home to me and I didn’t see how luck was going to ease the difficulty of saying farewell.
“Why?” I said, placing my other hand over hers.
“Because you found God’s love,” she said without hesitation, her eyes brimming with the delight of knowing a secret.
My mouth hung open. My spine straightened with the acknowledgment that she was right. All I could do was stare, her starchy white habit seemed brighter than usual.
“I can tell…” she said, her whole face smiling.
She had found me out. I was speechless. Just like I am speechless when people ask me about my summer with the Little Sisters of the Poor. For someone who is always eager to share, to talk, and use words to the point of abuse — it is remarkable that I have trouble coming up with an explanation that will suffice.
I found God’s love this summer. Something I previously thought I knew well enough. I got by, I worked hard, I tried harder and I crashed to the pillow every night, tired from a day of doing a lot for God. All is different now. Unlike what I had thought I knew about God’s love I didn’t have to earn it, I didn’t deserve it more than my fellow man and I certainly didn’t have to be perfect to find it.
Being a part of the Little Sisters life showed me the power of simplicity. Every action they do, from sorting mail, setting the dining table, feeding a resident, or planting flowers is done with profound patience and boundless consideration. They move quickly about the home and amaze me with the amount of duties they fulfill without rushing at all. From them and from the elderly Residents I learned the beauty of the “present.” Living each moment for what God is asking of you and what He is giving you in that task.
When one works with the elderly I think death can become very real. For me working with the aged poor this summer made life very real. It made me appreciate the ability to live each moment with Christ and to enjoy what I have. Living, eating, serving and hanging out with those so close to heaven brought me closer to God. As I spent time with them I got glimpses into that eternal life. I am forever grateful for this.
This summer program created the opportunity for me to have the freedom to search for Him and learn how much I needed to rely on His grace. This summer was a challenge. I was away from everything I knew. Yet it was because of this that I was able to be completely open to God and I had all the time I needed to wait patiently on His time. I now want what God wants for me. Before I felt obligated to follow the will of God. Though I knew it was good, I would almost begrudge the whole thing. I am no longer afraid of His will in my life.
It is hard to say good-bye to this leg of my journey. Yet I have this incredible blessing of God’s grace and I am giddy with anticipation to share it. I know this summer program is different for each girl. For me, as Sister Marie Louise so gracefully pointed out, I found the gift of God’s love. A gift that needs no location other than my heart to remain powerful.