Before you read, check out Part Three: Peace.
Back in the village, I sat on the beach with Navmit that night to reflect. We spent an hour or more just talking about how I might have been looking at everything from a narrow perspective, like the assumed purpose of the trip: service. I only thought of service in terms of giving and not receiving, but after a week in Naboutini, I received a whole lot more than I had anticipated.
What I failed to mention in previous posts, but what may have been the most important goal of the entire trip, was to love others well.
I think someone what might have asked me what that looks like, and I couldn’t give them a concise answer.
Hindsight is 20/20.
I read “Design Your Day” by Claire Diaz-Ortiz in early January-February. The author suggests you do very important things (among others): keep a journal with you wherever you go and pick a word or phrase of the year. It was a good way to direct my ideas and thoughts about what I have learned so far as a young adult in light of recent service experiences.
I thought to myself, Perfect! I have a brand new journal small enough to carry in all my bags.* However, I am a woman of many words and phrases. I don’t think I can pick only one to live by this year.
*As an aside, this journal was recently subjected to the condensation and sauce from my Panda Express bowl, which I foolishly placed in my cross body bag. Not entirely ruined, but is now marked by a weird discoloring. What a day.
While my goal before heading trip to Fiji was to learn to love others well, I was not sure if ‘love’ would be a catchall or if would simply be too cliche to continue throughout 2016. I figured it would be a one time thing, and then I could go back to just casual kindness.
Hold the phone.
I was recently listening to another episode of The Liturgists podcast, and I can’t remember the exact episode or even topic, but someone mentioned the apostle Paul and his letters to the church of Corinth. Yes, the chapter that everyone knows and loves to quote.
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I won’t interpret all of this passage, but I have found my phrase or word of the year.
Love above all else.
On the last day in the village, I allowed others in and allowed them to love me the way they know how. In the morning, Diala helped me wash the last of my clothes at her house before I had to pack. In the afternoon, I learned to weave part of a mat with Lina (like the one you see in the photo), young Paula dragged me to sea as part of the New Year ritual , and I taught Vere part of otea moana, a Tahitian dance about the ocean. Almost our entire group stayed in the ocean for two hours or more. In the evening, I sang and danced with the band until the early morning and managed to stay in my chamba, the formal dress for women, the entire time.
These blissful moments on the island filled my soul beyond its capacity. I felt loved. And I hope to make others feel loved, too.
Service isn’t about you or me. It is not about looking for glory, recognition, or acceptance. It’s not just a project nor a time where you give just for the sake of giving without considering the actual need. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to connect with humanity, to be together in a shared space accomplishing a common goal, and to learn from people who know how to love well through service.
There was no casual kindness in Fiji, and that sort of culture was refreshing. It was a humbling, reciprocal experience that was so radically different than any service I have been apart of before.
I am so thankful.