Sometimes the voices can be so clear.
“I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to live the gift that has been given to me. At a deeper level there has always been a deeper truth that this is what I am supposed to be and to do. We all want that sense of meaning and purpose in our lives….Don’t let your life go by without hearing what God is asking of you. Make sure you listen.”
This voice is Ruben Garcia’s.
He spoke these words five years ago. I had been interviewing him by phone for an article on his faith journey. And although he hadn’t been offering this advice to me personally, the voice was clearly speaking to me.
I got off the phone and cried. Spirit had accessed my heart.
At the time I had recently returned to Virginia after volunteering in El Paso. I was trying to settle into a daily routine while discerning what was next. Feeling uncomfortable and uncertain. I wanted to know what God was asking of me. I wanted to have Ruben’s certitude.
For that to happen, I knew I needed to be still and listen.
I began to pay attention.
If you’re a regular reader, you know by now that listening more deeply is what inspired me to make this grand move to El Paso.
But what keeps me here? After all, it hasn’t been a once-and-for-all kind of message.
There are moments of doubt, moments in which I’ve wondered where this is all going, what it is I think I am doing. In those challenging moments, I’ve tried to listen more deeply. Tried to pay more attention to my Higher Self and give less credence to the distrustful, worrisome voices.
And sometimes that still, small voice accesses my heart through the voices of others. Like it did that day through Ruben.
Like it does through my border community and fellow volunteers.
The voices of Joe and Linda, for example. They leave their home in California periodically throughout the year, to come to El Paso for several weeks at a time to volunteer with us.
When Joe says, “This is church – this community. It’s lifegiving,” his words resonate in my core. Yes, Joe, I truly get that.
When Linda says, “We all know that this horrible immigration system is broken, and until something is done to change that, this is what I can do,” I know this is why I am here, too. To do something positive to counter all the ill and hate being heaped onto immigrants.
And when Janet, an El Pasoan who has been with us since the early days of Loretto Nazareth, says” “This has been my most powerful experience of God in others,” I hear the truth of that. Because it has been for me, too.
I’ve experienced it in the simple gratitude of the migrant women. Voices that humble me and remind me again that something greater is holding all of this: “Muy amable, gracias. You have been so kind. You have given us back our dignity.”
Sometimes the voices pose questions. Questions that don’t require an answer, yet cause me to go deeper.
“What are our souls longing for, that we would do this work for the immigrants?”
Sr. Missy asked me this more in amazement than anything. She’d opened her congregation’s house on Grandview Avenue to board the countless volunteers who came from out of town to help at our hospitality sites over the years. She wondered aloud about the dedication of so many.
Her question stayed with me.
In listening, I discovered that what my soul longs for – the God I long for – is right here, hidden in my encounters at the border. It is here that God continues to access my heart.
“But do you realize how few people listen to that voice, much less follow it?”
This question is Peter’s, my spiritual companion. His voice carries Spirit’s desire for me to acknowledge and honor my faithfulness. And I pause, and take that in.
This Saturday, many more voices will access my heart as I attend the Voice of the Voiceless, Annunciation House’s annual fundraising dinner. It’s an opportunity to honor those who speak for the least among us. But this year’s dinner is unusual in that Ruben is honoring those who don’t normally have a voice – refugee children.
Many of us have heard these children’s voices. We’ve heard their cries for their “mami” and “papi” (mommy and daddy). We’ve heard the tapes after their separation and witnessed their pain close up. These are clearly the most challenging voices of all to hear. And they are still crying out.
Will we let God access our heart through these voices?