I am on the Board of Directors of Bridges to Community, an organization that not only does development work in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, but also provides service learning opportunities where volunteers live in and work with communities to address basic human needs. I got home late last night from a four day whirlwind trip to the Dominican Republic with the Board of Directors of Bridges. In the short time we were there, we visited the communities in which Bridges has worked and will be working, and also met with the leaders of those organizations with whom we will be partnering to improve schools and educational opportunities, address health related issues and provide more safer, more suitable housing for those in need. I am always moved and troubled and made more hopeful as I walk down the dirt roads of communities like the ones we visited.
While there was much to see and to learn and to think about, the most moving part of the four days for me was sitting in a small Roman Catholic church listening to Father John. He is a Roman Catholic priest from Long Island, NY who, by choice, has lived in the Dominican Republic for the last eight years working and advocating on behalf of a people who otherwise would have little or no voice, and sometimes, little or no hope.
He had three words to say to us: See. Decide. Act.
And, yet how difficult it is…
To risk being vulnerable enough to see the need of another.
And, to risk being daring enough to decide to do something.
And, to risk being courageous enough to actually do it.
In addition to the challenge Father John placed in front of us, several of us ended our time in the Dominican Republic reflecting on this Franciscan Benediction:
May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships;
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At the injustice, oppression and exploitation of people;
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed
For those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war;
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in this world
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.