Thankfully, the journey of my life has not always taken the turns or routes I anticipated as a young child or even in my early adulthood. It has been in those unexpected twists that I have discovered God’s abundant grace and that I have become more fully alive.
As the words, “compassion, courage and contemplation” sit before me, I am reminded of how my journey brought me to Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart. Previously, I was teaching with another religious order in Seattle, Washington. My students were phenomenal young women, and my colleagues were my best friends and still are today. It was my dream job in my favorite city. However, there was a deeper longing for adventure and growth that I could not shake. During my hike on the Camino de Santiago and throughout my graduate coursework, it became evident that my heart was restless, and I had to listen.
In a leap of faith, I told my principal that I would not return to work the following year without any sense of where I would end up or if there would be a job waiting for me. It was beyond terrifying, but I knew I had to dive in without hesitation or I would back down out of fear. As she always does, the Holy Spirit provided, and I was offered a job in Miami, a city completely different to my own where I knew nobody. And thus, began the next step of moving to the unknown and building a life from nothing. While the drive itself was full of majestic landscapes and the hospitality of friends and family, settling into a new place has proven to be an even longer journey.
And herein lies compassion, for others and especially myself. Sometimes I forget that I no longer live among those who have known me for years or who have been shaped by the same cultural values. Every person I meet is unique and has a story that is waiting to be discovered if I am compassionate enough to hear it without preconceived judgments. Some days I am more capable of this task than others, and I keep trying day by day.
This struggle also applies to how I deal with myself. It is my personal experience that treating others with compassion is easier than extending that same compassion to myself. Each day that I make a mistake or feel lonely in this new city can trigger a downward spiral of depression, anxiety or self-loathing. But thankfully, I have new colleagues who support me, new friends who make me laugh and new students who inspire me to model Sacred Heart values each day. And there is, of course, the beauty of the sacraments, which offer us Jesus present in the Eucharist and the healing grace of confession to give the extra spiritual boost and accompaniment.
I do not know where the journey will lead but with compassion, courage and contemplation, especially during this season of Lent, I know God will make something beautiful from it all.
Reflection: Amanda Baumgartner, Educator at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, Florida
Image: photo of a church while on the Camino de Santiago by Amanda Baumgartner