A reflection by Victoria Niedzielski, Mercy Volunteer Corps 2014-2015
As we sat in
the van in our usual seats, Mariah and Kirsten in front, Erin and
Mary-Kate in the middle, Karen and I cozy in the back, driving as we had
driven many times before, that’s when it finally hit me - the sharp
realization that I am going to have to say goodbye to my community soon.
of the reasons I chose to serve with Mercy Volunteer Corps was their
emphasis on community living. Dedicating yourself to those in need is a
big aspect of a year of service, but it’s important that you get
something out of it as well. Community living gives you the opportunity
to grow, empathize, live, and love with others.
As the year winds
down, I am sure that my time of service would not have been the same if
I did not have my community. Volunteering for a year can be hard for
people to understand. I’ve gotten many confused questions and comments
about choosing to live out a year of service. We live in a world where
everything we do has to have a clear and definite purpose, usually one
that will benefit us in the future. We go to high school and get good
grades that will get us into a good college. In college, we pursue a
responsible major that will get us a job right away. We make money to
buy a car, a house, have a family, a dog, go on vacations, and
eventually save enough to retire. To perform a year of service is to go
against the current. There is something sacred about living with other
people who also chose not to glide down the river, but to push against
its waters, trying to make a splash in places where other people may
turn a blind eye.
I’ve learned how important
human relationships are. I am an introvert, yet I am constantly being
drawn out of my room and into our community space, even if that means
just sitting at the kitchen table with a couple of my roommates. If more
people were open to wanting to create mutually happy and kind
relationships, the world would change so much. We are all human beings,
after all, living in the community of Earth.
So, a day
later, on May 9, 2015, my community and I were back in the van. This
time we were a lot more tired, a lot more sore, and now each of us
donned a medal: Grand Canyon Half Marathon Finisher. We did it.
Saying goodbye to my community will perhaps be ever
harder than running that half marathon. I’m sure we will keep in
contact. We will text, we will email, and we will talk on the phone. We
even have tentative plans to meet up once a year for a reunion. But
nothing will ever be the same as living together as a community.
I think of my year of volunteer service, I will think of the vast
Arizona sky, the numerous stars that light up the night, free to shine
far from from city lights. I will think of the Navajo people and their
beautiful ways of looking at the world, about how they walk their sacred
land with such reverence and respect, how their spirituality is firmly
engrained in their everyday lives. How they have suffered but still
rise. I will think of carefully budgeting our stipends each month,
planning meals, looking for deals. And I will think of my community: how
six strangers became sisters in a matter of months. I am on my way to
accepting that, in a few weeks, I will no longer be able to walk up the
fifty stairs to our apartment and be greeted with a wave of laughter and
warmth, but I know that we will always have Arizona.