My English language students at Cabrini Immigrant Services are all mature adults, several of them older than I am. The oldest, R., is in his mid-eighties. He has a good command of English (the class is high intermediate level), but because of a slight speech impediment rarely volunteers in class. One day the class was reading something in which the word “learner” appeared. A student asked about this word, which was new to her. As I started to explain that a “learner” is a “person who learns,” R. suddenly piped up: “I am a life-long learner!”
“Life-long learning” seems to me an apt metaphor for the spiritual journey. We keep “learning” God’s grace in our service, and if we open our hearts to it the “lessons” never end.
Barbara Lee has been an Ignatian Volunteer in New York since 2000. In 2011 the New York region honored her with the Madonna Della Strada award which honors “lives that reflect the Ignatian values of direct service to the poor, and working and educating for a more just society.”