Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thank You

I’ve been home for two weeks now, and I struggled throughout those two weeks to think of an appropriate farewell entry for I have finally realized that any farewell entry must convey a sense of thankfulness, and that is what I have set out to do.

My return to the States was equal to any made-for-tv movie—my parents greeted my long-haired, khaki-clad, hippie self at the airport with hugs, a cooler filled with my favorite American treats, and a dozen pink roses. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) The following days were a whirlwind of joyful reunions and how-was-its. I am more than grateful for the welcomes that my friends, family, and church community have extended.

However, I simply can’t erase from my mind the months of joy, sorrow, and discovery that my Jamaican friends, Jamaican family, and Jamaican church community extended to me during the past year. Everywhere I turn is Jamaica—from the necklaces I wear to my morning coffee to my missionary clothing tan lines. I am irrevocably tied to the concepts of poverty, justice, simplicity, and solidarity—as returned volunteers are wont to say, “I’m ruined for life.”

I spent my last week in Jamaica dissolving in tears whenever I tried to say goodbye. In between packing and orienting the newbies (who are fabulous and were fabulously patient with my rollercoasters of emotion), I had little time to say goodbye, and most of the time I did have was spent sobbing on Miss Doris’ shoulder. It didn’t feel right—these people didn’t ask for me to drop into their lives and play with their children. They didn’t ask for me to become their friend, but somehow, I did. And then I up and left them.

It is here in this entry that I can effectively list my gratefulness to the people of Mount Friendship: thank you for guiding me into the work I was sent to do. Thank you for letting me witness true compassion and devotion. Thank you for letting me hold your babies and for making me feel included in village politics and gossip. Thank you for your smiles and for your simplicity. Most importantly, thank you for forgiving me during those times in which I’m sure I let you down.

It is here that I can thank my friends, family, and church community for their support during the year: thank you for caring. Thank you for your cards and notes and packages and magazines. Thank you for the expensive phone calls and expensive plane tickets. Thank you for trying to wrap your head around the ideas of poverty and justice. But most importantly, thank you for letting Miss Doris, Mr. Brooks, and a village called Mount Friendship into your consciousnesses and into your hearts. Be assured that I am happy to be home with you all.

It is here that I can thank the Passionist Volunteers International staff and extended network for their training, patience, and development. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for feeding me and listening to me whine. Thank you for talking about service and solidarity and the poor. Thank you for being available and for being a surrogate family. I couldn’t have done this without you.

Jamaica and Passionist Volunteers International will always be a part of who I am…those two entities have shaped me, for better or for worse.

I ache for it all--I miss the sunsets. I miss my roommates. I miss my dog. I miss my oranges. I miss the sweetly lilting rhythms of Jamaican Patois. I miss Doris and Brooks. I miss the earnest choruses before Sunday service. I miss the feel of Kadean’s little hand in mine. Unbelievably, I miss the god-awful smells of downtown Kingston and the hideous braying of goats in the bush.

I wish the best to Matt, Jared, Sarah, Charity, and Tracy, “newbies” no longer. They are well-equipped to handled the challenges that Jamaica will undoubtedly hurl at them this year. I envy them: they have it all before them.

But I now have the chance to join the ranks of PVI alumni—I’m eager to join the recruiting process and can’t wait to visit next year’s orientation. I’m currently working on what I refer to as my “big-girl life”—the next phase. I have the extraordinary opportunity to start another kind of service. Come fall, I will be a teacher in a Catholic high school and can continue the journey of justice. As much as I miss my Jamaican way of life, I understand that the next stage of my life will be no less exciting or fulfilling.

So, thanks. Thanks Jamaica, thanks Rhode Island, thanks PVI. Thanks for making me into who I am today, in this moment. I love you all.