Friday, January 23, 2009

On Worrying

Worrying is my forté. When someone is more than 10 minutes late, I worry something bad has happened to them. As an impending test or assignment creeps closer, I worry I am going to fail. When someone mentions having the flu or a cold, I worry I am going to catch it too, thus take heed and keep my distance. In a lot of ways, keeping distance is a forté of mine as well. My worrying helps me to make decisions to protect myself and do all in my power to avoid being hurt in any way (physically and emotionally).

I have encompassed this means of self-preservation to the point where I've allowed worrying to block me from experiencing life at its fullest. I've stressed days away without appreciating what an amazing, priveleged, blessed life I lead. There are times where my thoughts are so engrossed in avoidance and caution as a result of my worrying, that I have compromised my ability to seize the intimacy with life that a care-free spirit posesses.

I understand that there is a balance to be found between living care-free and being a worry-wart, and I don't think I've accomplished it. This is not a pity story either! I have wonderful people in my life who really love me, and with whom I have experienced immense joy. But this is a comfort zone I have grown to take for granted, and from which I have not breached.

There are days where my soon-to-be adventure with Beyond Borders scares the living daylight out of me. How will I manage travelling on my own for the first time? How will I manage to communicate where Ukrainian is the predominant language? What if my host family doesn't like me? What if I get lost on my way to work? What if the girls at the orphanage don't accept me? What will I do the days where I feel alone and isolated from my family and friends? I could rant about the troubling scenarios that play through my mind for hours (some more ridiculous than others), but I realize this is neither healthy nor helpful.

Embarking on the journey Beyond Borders is offering me is a huge step (personally) in stepping out of my comfort zone; however, preparing for the trip, and having confidence in myself that I can take whatever comes my way is the next major obstacle ahead. It is likely that one or more of the scenarios that stress me out will become reality amidst my three months away. I hope that from these experiences I can learn to deal with life's uncertainties with greater competence and poise. In doing so, living in the moment and valuing my life as it fluctuates will come with greater ease. This is my weakness, and while it has become my struggle to overcome, embracing this journey in all its improbability has given me opportunities to expand - and as it continues I can only hope to develop further.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Small Things Count

I like to think I'm a (far from perfect) humanitarian. I thrive on connecting with people, and believe in our responsibility as humans to provide meaningful relationships for eachother in order that everybody lives with dignity, respect, belonging and love. Along with this ideology, I am a firm believer that a little effort goes a long way. One doesn't have to try hard, or have elaborate plans to make a difference on the lives of others on a daily basis. Holding the door open for the person behind you; smiling and saying thank-you to the cashier at Tim Horton's (even if it is their job to give you coffee); giving up a bus seat to a stressed Mom who needs it more; all these things can make life just that little bit more pleasant for our neighbours.

While it may be naive, I have this wonderful notion of everyone making an effort to care for one another, to do the little things that make each others' lives easier, better. Im not talking about a utopic kingdom in which everything is rainbows and flowers and not a grey cloud is seen. It would brighten my day to feel that instead of focusing on themselves, someone took time out of their day to care about me. I don't think I am the only one whose day this selfless caring would touch. Now imagine everyone being thoughtful enough to hold that door open, smile and say thank you, give up that bus seat... and having your neighbour, a stranger, "the other" be affected by this effort and altogether know that someone else cares enough to touch their lives. Again, maybe this is naive, but in many ways I have adopted this attitude in my own actions, hoping to have an infectious influence on the people I encounter, willing that they might perpetuate the cycle.

My experiences in Beyond Borders thus far have only reinforced my wonderful, possibly naive, notions about everyone making a little effort to make a bigger difference. As mentioned previously, this term's focus is putting our educational training from last term to practice in our own community. In doing so, the group visited The Working Centre for an orientation of its resources and opportunities for volunteering. The Working Centre is an amazing community/resource centre where various projects seek to build a stronger community. An integral facet of this centre is focusing on providing a helpful service tailored to the needs of each individual as they come in, as opposed to offering a structured list of services to those whose needs correspond accordingly.

While getting better acquainted with one of its founders, Joe Mancini, the Beyond Borders group was posed with the question "Have you ever been asked to fix someone's shoe, or to mend someone's mitten?" These problems seem miniscule to those fortunate enough to have the means to buy new shoes, or use a different pair of mittens when one pair is unfit. But The Working Centre has realized how such issues can prove themselves to be deterring obstacles in one's life, and is a facility centered around caring enough to put the effort toward making small changes which have a profound difference in brightening and easing the difficulties in another's life.

So what I am trying to say is, while I have this idea of everyone trying to do something selfless for their neighbour in the hopes of trying to make someone else's life easier, Beyond Borders has given this a new perspective. Not only have my experiences in this program thus far showed me that selfless acts for others is a plausible way to make another's day easier, but it has given me the opportunity to explore a new community of people who hold this same value.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

There's a first for everything

Hi all!
My name is Jessica, and while my profile mentions that I am a student at the University of Waterloo studying chemistry and religion, this blog will be all about my participation in an international service-learning program called Beyond Borders through St. Jerome's University. This is a 3-part program aiming to put students' learning into action on an international level. Volunteer placements in developing countries such as Botswana, Nicaragua, and Bosnia-Herzegovina have been arranged for this year's participants--as for myself, I will be landing in Ternopil, Ukraine working in an orphanage with girls who have disabilities (along with a fellow participant- Jen!).

This placement, however, is only one part of the program. Other requirements include attending seminars provided by our international partners, Intercordia, enrolling in two courses through St. Jerome's (the first of which is more theory based, the second providing practical opportunities to put our education to use in our own neighbourhood), and attending a re-integration workshop after returning from our host-country.

As part of the required courses, each participant must prepare a blog of their participation in the program; experiences they acquire throughout various encounters; thoughts and opinions of the theory covered; sentiments while anticipating our departure and anything else we'd like to share.

So here I am, exposing my amateur blogging skills with you in the hopes that my sharing can provide personal exhalation of emotions, while reaching out to anyone who wants to listen. I cannot promise eternal optimism throughout my discussion, nor discovery of transforming revelations, but I can promise sincerity in my disclosure.

Please feel free to comment and provide input as you like. If you have any questions about the program or anything you feel I could assist you in acquainting yourself with, don't hesitate to ask. And without further ado...welcome to my blog.