My commute from the MetroWest suburbs to Casserly House starts with a 6:45am commuter train from Concord to North Station, then an Orange Line subway to Forest Hills, then a bus to Stellman Road. As a semi-retired Ignatian Volunteer Corps member, I think to myself, “Why do I feel so much happier than my fellow commuters?”
Sister Nancy greets me with “Are you up for teaching a class this morning?” or “I’ve got a new one for you to register. Let me know whether you think we should take her.” I never know what awaits me, but that is part of the appeal. Refugees and immigrants also never know what awaits them. I am one of them!
As adult ESOL students start to arrive, I gather a few around a table and we engage in casual conversation and vocabulary building. We might talk about what each of us did over the weekend or what we ate. I learn that Haitian soup frequently includes bananas.
I meet one-on-one with adults, walking through the immigration maze with them, listening to them and counseling them in whatever way I can. I marvel at the resilience I see in these suffering people, how they can cope with tragedy, torture, loss, poverty, and discrimination. And I wonder, “How can these people still smile?”
The day continues, lunch at noon, break out the yogurt and granola bar and enjoy discussions with Sister Nancy and Amanda (JVC) about social justice, Ignatian spirituality, and Boston’s unique quirks. Drop-in visitors at lunch are always welcome.
My after-school tutoring is frequently a lesson in humility. A child once admonished me “Jim, this is second grade math, you’re supposed to know this stuff!” Rather than worrying about my tutoring skills, I tell myself to try to be that loving father or grandfather the children have not experienced.
As I do the reverse-commute back to the suburbs, I reflect on my experiences, and say a little prayer for the suffering. I saw God’s love for the poor and felt His presence among them. Yes, I know I am so much happier than my fellow commuters!