It’s Monday, May 31, 2016. Exactly 26 days separate me from a plane ride to La Sagrada Familia Parish in the Dominican Republic. Only 26 days separate me from experiencing an entirely different culture with an array of wonderful, committed souls. Only 26 days separate me and over 20 others from a potential life-changing adventure. While I am extremely enthusiastic and excited for this experience, I am incredibly uncertain of what I will encounter.
The feeling of spending one week in a foreign country is making me both excited and anxious. It seems that the best way to find God and be at peace is to experience solidarity with those living in poverty. However, even those in extreme poverty have hearts and souls of gold. It’s amazing to see people on the outskirts of society be content and blessed with their style of life. When you focus on the things that really matter, it’s easy to see how having so little is actually having all that you need.
As our group prepares to depart for this trip, we have discussed “best practices” when it comes to visiting a brand new place. A few buzzwords in our group discussions were “flexibility”, “open mindedness” and “vulnerability.” These are all wonderful and necessary terms for our pilgrimage. In the spirit of a general overview, one of the terms I introduced to the group is “sonder.” By definition, sonder is the realization that each passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. No matter where those people are located in this world, they still have thoughts, worries, successes, trials/tribulations, and crazy lives just like us. Once we fully accept that, we are ready to experience their way of life with an open mind and an open heart.
From everything I’ve been told, the parishioners of La Sagrada Familia are eager to welcome us into their lives for a week. I sincerely hope to learn all I can about their lives, hopes and dreams and form relationships that will last a lifetime. All I can do is be open to being vulnerable and that’s when I’ll learn the most about myself and about our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic.
It’s less than a month away. The enthusiasm is there. The uncertainty is there. They combine to make way for an amazing learning experience!