Season of Change

One of my favorite aspects about this time of year is the changing of seasons, and this week at Benedict Inn we have been in a state of transition.

Just like any other store, Shop InnSpired must change out its decorations and products for each holiday. The many hearts and red garlands that graced the displays are now being replaced by strings of shamrocks and leprechauns. However, you might imagine my surprise when I unwrapped some “beer goggles” and a few shot glasses to add to our inventory. It was not what I was expecting to find at Benedict Inn! Yet, we always joke that you never know what you’re going to find in our gift shop…there are so many great surprises amongst our collection of hand-made items and assorted knickknacks. Many people love St. Patrick’s Day because it is such a fun holiday, and I think everyone appreciate this when they come into our shop! We’re definitely transitioning out of the dreary days of winter into the fresh days of spring.

St. Patrick’s Day (in both its religious and secular manifestations) and the return of spring aren’t the only events we have been preparing for. This Wednesday marked the beginning of the Lenten season. The sisters at Our Lady of Grace have their own communal and private practices during the Lenten season, but some also bring their work to Benedict Inn. Two of the sisters are leading programs: one is a four-session program called “Lenten Journey,” whose Ash Wednesday session was a success. (It was one of my tasks to summarize the evaluations.) The other is an event hosted with Fatima Retreat House about hospitality during Lent. It’s great to see the special passion everyone at OLG and BI has for supporting and serving others at this time of year.

Usually I have a hard time with change, but I have to admit that these transitions have me reflective and excited.

And just to prove that working at Benedict Inn is full of pleasant surprises, I ran into a former classmate from high school today, as he is leading a Kairos retreat from IU. What a small world!

An Environment of Compassion

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2012

At work on Wednesday I received some bad news. While updating our Twitter (twitter.com/benedictinn), I saw that Honduras was one of the trending topics…

Last summer I went with the Butler Catholic Community to Honduras on a service trip. We worked with an organization called Sociedad Amigos de los NiƱos. I learned more about serving others here than I have with any other volunteer experience. I realized that part of serving others is not just the tasks you preform for them, but it includes your motivations, your compassion and, most importantly, the relationships you create with both those you serve and those you serve with. It was definitely a life-changing experience for me. It’s one of the main reasons my eyes were opened to a possible career in non-profit…

And here, on Twitter, I read about a fire in a prison in Comayagua that caused upward of 350 deaths. That itself was horrifying and deeply upsetting.

Later, when I logged into my inbox to send an email, I coincidentally received a message that our upcoming return trip to Honduras is canceled this year due to a number of factors. Needless to say, I was not in a good state by noon prayer.

However, here I discovered yet another reason to be grateful to be interning at Benedict Inn. At a place that focuses on serving spiritual and emotional needs, I found great compassion and sympathy. At many other jobs, I may have heard people say, “Why are you so upset about a fire killing prisoners that you don’t even know?” At Benedict Inn, I was surrounded by compassion and those offering their prayers, guidance and encouragement.

If anything, this experience has reinforced to me the value of working in an environment that focuses on understanding and supporting individuals’ multidimensional needs. I now wish to make a conscious effort to become integrated into that environment.

Caregiving

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2012

This week I’ve gotten pretty interested in one of our current projects at Benedict Inn. The Inn has sponsored an annual retreat for caregivers for the past six years. The retreat is open to caregivers of all kinds: medical staff, social workers, chaplains, hospice workers, and very importantly, family and friends. It is designed to treat caregivers to time to take care of themselves, and to learn how to manage their important roles.

For this project, I have not only been helping with the save-the-date cards that will be sent out, but with some of the actual event planning. I took time to research addresses for hospitals, nursing schools, social workers, physical therapists, church groups, and others, so that we can invite as many people as possible. I also got to go through a file and organize information about the speakers and topics discussed at the retreat.

Even though my role is small and behind the scenes, I appreciate the greater impact of the work that goes into planning this event. This isn’t a project that just takes time, but rather one that also attracts people’s passionate interest. For anyone who has been a caregiver or been a witness to caregiving, the appreciation and support offered by this retreat is wonderful. I have developed such an interest in this project and am excited to see it realized. This type of work makes me very grateful to be a part of Benedict Inn’s services.

Ora et Labora

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2012

While one of my faults is that I can sometimes be impatient, this past Wednesday’s experience helped me grow.

Sitting in morning prayer, I had a difficult time concentrating. I leafed through my prayer book and couldn’t help but sigh at how long the psalms were. All I could think about was how much I wanted to accomplish in the office that morning, and prayer just felt like an impediment to my productivity. I felt that I owed it to the staff to get as much done as I could, as one of the members had been out sick the previous day.

Then, amidst this inner battle, I read a line that made me realize that my “work” isn’t just the tasks I preform in the office. It’s something greater than that. It’s something that St. Benedict taught…duh. It’s “Ora et Labora,” and what it means is that you do God’s work not only through your physical labor, but through your prayer and contemplation as well. All I needed was this simple reminder of what I believe about service in the first place: that what I do for others is ultimately connected to my spirituality. Each day the sisters pray, “Thy will be done,” which is exactly what they are doing by working in the community AND by praying for the members of that community, and all humanity. Prayer is work (and sometimes we feel that way!) and I feel it is one of my responsibilities.