In the morning, I depart for work at the hospital. After climbing into my small blue car, I drive along the winding roads of the greater Cincinnati area for around 20 minutes. In the background, a recording of the rosary plays through the speakers of the car and I pray along. The sun is usually glaring by then, and though I’m not much of a morning person, my actions are a bit procedural, which helps put me in a rhythm for the day. Although I take the same route every morning, I can’t help but catch myself getting momentarily distracted by the scenery and the way it changes with the weather.
Every time this happens, despite feeling I have been distracted from the task at hand, I still make it to work. Truthfully, I feel much better than I would, had I been spending those 20 minutes thinking frantically about the day ahead. A morning commute, just as most things in life, is routine and predictable. The truth is though, what we choose to focus on in the midst of our routines is what shapes our experience.
As I sit here and reflect, I realize this choice has become a theme in my year as a volunteer. Particularly in a time like this, where we are experiencing heightened divisions, fear and loneliness. How often are we truly being present to ourselves and others in our lives? What “scenery” and insights are we potentially missing out on when we allow ourselves to be engulfed by selfishness, the need to get things done, fear for what comes next, or the pressure to make it to our next destination? It only takes one conversation, a single moment to change us, if we look up outside of ourselves sometimes.
Community members, coworkers, family members, friends, and strangers all have different places in our lives, but they all have the same ability to impact us (if we are open to it) and vice versa. My year here and work at Mercy Health in Spiritual Care Services has made me more acutely aware of this and how God calls us all to help heal each other through loving presence. A friend who needs a laugh, a coworker that has taken me under their wing, a stranger that I say hello to in the halls of the of the hospital, a patient on the phone confiding their difficulties in me, or maybe just catching up with my community member. These are all opportunities for me to minister or be ministered to in my daily life. No matter how insignificant an interaction may seem, it carries significance if we intentionally choose to enter it with an authentic presence. How much more could we help heal others and be healed ourselves if we chose to look at all those around us as gifts rather than distractions or inconveniences? We can’t fix all our problems or everyone else’s, but we can be present and I believe it is in true presence that we foster appreciation for life, connection, and hope in each other. God speaks to us in many ways if we listen, and sincere joy and love can be found if we only remind ourselves to be present to the seemingly ordinary.
Liv Pettigrew: Cincinnati, Ohio