In a world rife with bad news, it's easy to get wrapped up in tragedy and malice. However, if you believe that you can make the world a better place through small gestures, amazing things can happen.
Or so says Dominican Sister of Hope Grace Ball, OP. Below, Sister Grace shares her ideas on how to celebrate humanity through love, whether you’re abroad or right at home:
1. Be open-minded.
Most of us have our own ideas of what we want to happen and how we want it to happen.
However, Sister Grace says that, had she stuck to a rigid life plan, she would have missed out on some of her best experiences and relationships.
When Grace Ball was asked to move to Puerto Rico to teach English, she wasn’t enthused. She had just entered the convent as a Catholic nun and she had hardly been outside of Brooklyn.
However, noticing no one else was raising her hand, Sister Grace reluctantly stepped forward.
“If anybody else had [volunteered to go to Puerto Rico], I wouldn’t have,” Sister Grace says.
Certainly, the opportunity wasn’t one she expected. But, when faced with a new opportunity, she said "yes," and her open-mindedness paid off.
2. Don’t be afraid to explore.
You might love where you live, but broadening your horizons and creating new experiences for yourself will open your heart to love and beauty and taking the chance is worth it.
We might love our friends, our homes and our routines, but isn’t life about opening our eyes to the new and embracing change?
For Sister Grace, exploring beyond her home in Puerto Rico taught her to live in the moment.
She enjoyed living in the convent in an affluent town, but on the weekends, she wasn’t afraid to venture out.
“On Saturdays, I had my friend take me to the campo out in the country areas, and I’d have some little kids come and meet me wherever they left me off and show me all around,” she recalled.
During the visits, she went to homes and interacted with people. Those afternoons are now some of her fondest memories of being in the country, but they would never have happened if she didn’t venture out of the town she lived in.
“They would bring me to two or three homes so I could get used to the people and things,” she remembered. “We had our little experiences together. And I liked being with them. And I just was.”
Talk to Sister Grace about Puerto Rico, and she’ll tell you it’s amazing the whole experience worked out so well.
“God took care of everything,” she concedes.
But, she believes her biggest asset was her ability to laugh with the people and just be with them.
“I was a laid-back person,” she says. “I made a lot of mistakes with the language, but I laughed about them.”
4. Speak with your heart.
After a flood, Sister Grace learned the important lesson of speaking with her heart. The entire town had flooded, and the people had flocked to the school’s basement for shelter.
When Sister Grace encountered an elderly woman sitting on a blanket in the room, she felt bad she had nothing to give the woman.
“I’m gesturing, trying to speak to her,” Sister Grace recalled (Sister couldn’t speak fluent Spanish at this point). “And in Spanish, the woman said, ‘You don’t have to say anything because we understand you. Because you speak with your heart.’”
We might not understand everyone and everything around us in one day, but we definitely can speak and listen with our hearts.
5. Do service.
We’ve all heard that service changes you more than it does those you’re serving and the saying is so true.
Even if it’s just helping someone across the street or dropping off some cans at a food pantry, taking a few minutes to help others today will benefit them and you.
6. Be gracious.
We might not have the chance to visit households without basic utensils like forks, as Sister Grace did.
“One time I went to eat at someone’s house,” Sister recalled, “and they said, ‘We have a fork in this house, now it must be here someplace!’”
However, even without experiencing such stark realities, we can still be grateful for what we do have. As Sister Grace says, “some things are treasures that we don’t even know about.”
7. Say "yes."
Sister Grace’s surprises didn’t stop at agreeing to live in Puerto Rico.
She lists one of her most eye-opening moments as when she was invited to be on a Puerto Rican television program with a famous host. Needless to say, she definitely hesitated to say "yes."
“I said, 'How can I speak to all of your people?'” she recalled telling the host. After all, she couldn’t speak Spanish, and she wasn’t one to be in the spotlight. However, once she begrudgingly agreed, she was glad she did.
She went on stage, and, the next thing she knew, she just started talking!
“Whatever came out came out,” she said, “was half English, half Spanish, half correct, half not correct. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Does this all sound too easy? Maybe celebrating humanity through unity and love is simple, after all.
Be open. Be flexible. Smile. Be grateful. And, of course, enjoy every minute of it.
The Dominican Sisters of Hope are 160+ Catholic Dominican sisters who live in fifteen states and Puerto Rico where they serve largely in justice, social, healthcare, and education ministries.
Always dynamic, they are everything from Executive Directors of homeless shelters to physical education teachers to artists, and they’re excited to share with you the ways they bring hope to it all. More about them at ophope.org.