Divine Savior Holy Angels grad Sam Windsor is a junior at University of Dayton. She recently came back to high school to speak to the Class of 2018 for their VOCARE send-off. Sam’s challenge to the students: consider that God isn’t measuring our achievements. . . He is much more concerned with how we are loving others.
Hi everybody! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sam Windsor. I graduated from DSHA in 2015 and am now studying early childhood education at the University of Dayton. Seniors, I am so proud of how much you have grown! I remember welcoming you to DSHA for your first day of classes – shout out to Sra Ayudan’s 7th hour Spanish 1 – watching you take flight on Freshmen Retreat, and witnessing the start of your transformation into confident and capable women. I feel so blessed to be back, getting ready to send you off on what I would describe as one of the most powerful and humbling experiences of my high school career.
I would like to take a minute to go back to my own Vocare experience, when I worked at Easter Seals, a center that provides day services to adults with disabilities. Going into the experience, I was so excited for Vocare! Here I was, a confident and capable senior, ready to make a difference! I will be honest, the first few days of Vocare, I questioned why I was at Easter Seals. I discovered that I would spend most of my days just being with the adults and getting to know them. Initially, it was difficult to make conversation, and I wondered what sort of a difference these awkward, slow interactions could really be making. I felt uncomfortable and unhelpful.
Sometimes, discomfort is an indicator of a step in God’s direction.
God’s direction was calling me to relationship with the adults at Easter Seals. It took time for me to build these relationships, and begin to see the purpose in my time there. And so began a routine over the next two weeks that I came to love. Upon walking into Easter Seals each morning, I was greeted with a warm welcome from Gloria, and would sit and chat with Tina about what she had done the night before. Sometimes, there were more quiet moments, when Jim and I would sit and flip through magazines, exchanging no words, just sitting in each other’s presence. At the end of each day, Laurel would grab my hand and confidently ask me: “Tomorrow?” Yes, I would be back tomorrow. Nobody ever gave me a specific job to do, I just got to spend my time getting to know the people there.
I learned that I would not always be helpful, I discovered that I could be present. This was a difficult shift in mindset for me. I was used to being able to accomplish tasks, like making 553 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or raising $15,000 for the Lent project. And while these are good and incredible accomplishments, it was more difficult for me to simply sit and be with another person, especially when there seemed to be so many barriers and differences between us.
By the end of my two weeks, I did not see barriers, I saw friends. I had found such joy in presence. My accomplishments were minimal: I talked about WWII with John, or colored pictures with Laurel, or danced to the radio with Craig. But God isn’t measuring up our achievements like a resume—He is much more concerned with how we are loving others.
When I left for college, I felt called to continue to build relationships and be present with others. It is because of this desire to share life with others that I chose to go into education. This call, along with a huge leap of faith, is what inspired me to spend 7 weeks this past summer in India, where we spent some of our time in Kolkata serving with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. I worked with the women at Prem Dan, a home for the destitute and dying. The focus of our work was to make each woman feel loved and dignified, despite old age, disability, or abandonment through simple things such as hand holding, smiling, and singing. I would like to share with you a journal entry from my time in Kolkata.
“Today, I held the hands and face of Christ. I took the hands of a woman, with the intention of giving her a massage. The moment I grabbed her hands, this woman’s gaze met mine. As I worked my way through her wrists, palms, and fingers, I was glancing between her eyes and hands, but all the while, her eyes never left mine. I stopped massaging, and instead, decided to just be with this woman. For quite some time, we stood there, holding hands, looking at one another, smiling. Two souls, staring into one another, acknowledging the light in each of us.”
Even today, I can still see that woman’s face; the look in her eyes as she stared directly into mine. The love and the interactions that we shared during those twenty minutes did not ask questions, it did not have exceptions. It was complete, it was inclusive, and it asked nothing in return. This is how God loves us, and how He calls us to love and serve: Complete, inclusive, and without strings attached.
You are going out to serve the city of Milwaukee— but what does that mean? I have come to discover that service is an opportunity to build relationships. It is an invitation to see the face of God in the sometimes uncomfortable and challenging. It calls us to walk together with our brothers and sisters. As you arrive at your service sites on Monday, I want to challenge you to let go of feelings of uncertainty, discomfort, and fear. Remember that God isn’t calling us to easy, He is calling us to Him. I invite you to look for how God is present in the people you encounter and the work that you do. Soak up every moment these next two weeks. Be where your feet are. There will be good, there will be challenges, but God has led you to this place for a reason. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.
Each morning at the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity, all of the volunteers gathered to share in mass, breakfast, and community. The last thing we did before we left for our service sites was pray this prayer together. These words have left a lasting impact on me, and I invite you to reflect on how you may carry them with you.
Dear Lord, The Great Healer, I kneel before You, since every perfect gift must come from You. I pray give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, kindness and meekness to my heart. Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift up a part of the burden of my suffering fellow men, and a true realization of the privilege that is mine. Take from heart all guile and worldliness, that with the simple faith of a child, I may rely on you.
We have our hope in Jesus, that all things will be well in the Lord.