The Gospels in the Easter season have always been some of my favorites. We see lots of themes of hope and love. In this week’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” Last Sunday, Jesus gave us a new commandment to keep with us—to love one another. When we love each other, we are loving God and His people; therefore, God will dwell with us here.
How can we push ourselves to love others well, even when it’s uncomfortable?
I consider myself an enneagram type 2, a helper. One of my main love languages is acts of service. During my year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I worked with refugee youth at an afterschool program. I was always more of a logistics, background kind of person, so I approached my placement trying to do these intricate lesson plans and schedules, expecting everything to be on time and work according to plan. What I learned very quickly was that it was not going to fly.
My lesson plans were not always on the English level of my students, were not relatable whatsoever, or were just not fitting the energy level of the students that day. Some of my best times in program were when we did an impromptu dance party or game of musical chairs when my lesson plans did not work out. Being present in the moment, and admiring the beauty of human connection was the most beautiful love that I was able to be a part of. Sure, I was able to do those other logistical things, but the time we spent playing, laughing, and dancing were the times that I saw love the most, and we did not even have to be speaking the same language to do so. Sometimes the greatest way we can love each other is not by solving problems, but just by being there.
There are times where all we want to do is try to figure out how to solve another person’s problem. But sometimes there is no action you could take at that moment to solve an issue. While there are actions we can take to alleviate some struggling, like when we deliver food and donations to a homeless shelter; the beauty of the interaction lies in being there—seeing others and making conversation, when the rest of the world ignores them. Find a balance there—between checking on someone’s needs and just being there. Human beings desire connection and relationship, so sometimes all we need to do to love each other is to be present and willing to listen.
Shelby Smyth is a graduate of Spring Hill College (2019), where she studied psychology with a minor in theology. In her undergraduate studies, she became involved in social justice and advocacy through the push from faculty and staff at Spring Hill, which led her to the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. Shortly after graduation, she served a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Syracuse, New York with the Northside CYO, making relationships with refugee families and providing academic support and afterschool programming. Currently, she is a resident minister and graduate assistant for John Carroll University Campus Ministry.