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Highs and Lows

This week has been a strangely bittersweet week with a mixture of highs and lows.  As I am constantly reminded, I have been sooo blessed by my entire situation here in Spain: I have the BEST family to live with (I just finished cleaning up the kitchen with Raquel after Alejandro and I made soft pretzels for everyone); I work at the coolest school with wonderful, caring, laid-back and friendly teachers and administrators (I’m not ever going to forget how great the teachers were the first day of class when I was sick); I have met great people to hang out with; I have a beautiful place to live and call home; and I have the opportunity to stay in touch with people who are far away.  All of these things, plus countless more, have been such consolations as I have had a strange bout of longing for all the things back home that I know I’m missing.

This past week the other auxiliars and I began to decorate for Halloween and that small reminder that Halloween was coming and that I would not be celebrating with the annual “Hahn-o-ween” party that I have gone to in the past brought a tinge of regret to my heart.  I have been practicing salsa dancing every day and am reminded of the incredible dance partners that I’m missing back at the Danceability studio in Buffalo.  My sister and my niece called me the other day and I know that she is continuing to grow up while I am here and that I will return home at Christmas to find a 3-year old in the place of the 2-year old that I left behind.  I look at the calendar and know that the teens I have worked with for so many years will be heading off in less than two weeks for their Confirmation retreat and that I’m not there to cheer them on.  Life continues to move forward, no matter where we are.

The chance to spend more time thinking and reflecting is both a blessing and a curse.  It is good to step back and reflect on what’s important - I have been keeping up on the fires in California as I think of family and strangers who have been (and continue to be) impacted by such devestation.  I am grateful for the safety of my aunt and uncle as I continue to say prayers for those who weren’t so fortunate and for those who are still in potential danger.  Family is important, the gift of life is important, friendship is important, giving of one’s self in service and love is important.  To have people that I love so much that I miss them so fiercely is a blessing.  And yet, on the other hand, it is so easy to fall into a feeling of sadness and self-pity as I feel so far away from the people who have are and have become so important to me - family and friends, my parish community(ies), the places in which I used to spend my time serving and being inspired.  

I was thinking about all this the other day when, lo and behold, something popped up on my newsfeed - it was a notification about the opportunity to join in a day known as “Serve the City - Madrid” taking place next Saturday.  Being the curious person that I am, I clicked on it and found that there is an event taking place fairly close to my neighborhood to spend the morning/afternoon at a local center for individuals with special needs, playing games and just spending time with those who come to participate in the day.  So, I signed up and am looking forward to the chance to get involved (hopefully I will have the chance to get involved more than just for the day)!

I will never be able to change the whole world - to put out all the fires, to help all the people who are in need, or to prevent the acts of violence that erupt - but I can love the people that are in front of me (even the ones who pick their noses and refuse to do their English work) and do my best to serve those around me, wherever I am.  

I promise that, later this week, I will actually write more about my school, my experience as a teacher’s assistant, and about my living situation; but I have probably written too much already for one post.  So, for now, I say “buenas noches”... 

-Stephanie
(1 Thess 5:16-18)

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