Each Christmas season, my friend Janie and I would drive a couple of hours to visit Norma, a woman with Down Syndrome, who lived in a group home. Janie had met Norma in college, when she managed a group home, and later became Norma’s legal guardian. Janie resembled Santa with a large bag of presents from family members, and I had my single gift. Janie gave each present to Norma to unwrap and then told her who it was from. Norma opened the present and turned to me and said “Thank you”. Janie restated who it was from and Norma looked at Janie dismissively and proceeded to thank me. This continued as she unwrapped each of the ten presents. At one point during this process of unwrapping presents Janie and I made eye contact and just laughed. It is now a standing joke when I visit Janie’s family and someone picks up the bill, people thank me.
As I begin the new year, how I felt that Christmas season with Norma is how I feel as an Ignatian Volunteer. I show up at early intervention and offer my service and people thank me. I respond, “You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure”. It really is my pleasure to play with youngsters in the sandbox, on the slide, and on the floor. There are dirty diapers, tantrums, runny noses and cold days taking the children off the van, but the laughs, smiles and seeing a little one begin to communicate are moments of pure joy.
I begin the new year with a gracious and hopeful heart because I joined the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. I have met insightful reflectors, generous regional council members, people from the national office and the volunteers at monthly meetings who share stories from their placements of struggles, pain, hope and joy of many. My world has expanded. I have read and reflected on the words of Pope Francis which challenge and at the same time offer hope.
I have become part of an Ignatian community.
Mary Beth O’Sullivan is an Ignatian Volunteer serving in New England at Bay Cove Early Intervention in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She was employed as a speech language pathologist in the Boston Public Schools for 34 years, where she never experienced a boring day. Mary Beth currently enjoys getting together with friends and family and chauffeuring her grand nephews and nieces to various activities.