By: Ana Davila
Sometimes when I am on a run, on the bus, walking home, laying in bed, and so forth, I wonder to myself, “Where is God in this moment?” Is He in the person sitting across from me? The wind blowing through a tree? The ants invading the sidewalk crack?…Maybe all the above? Regardless, God has shown himself to be with me in everything done this year with VVC and in a lot of ways that really surprised me because coming to Cincinnati was, for me, a culture shock. Prior to VVC I had never lived in a city, never been apart from family, never had to rely on the bus as my main means of transportation, and I wasn’t used to hearing people and cars at every hour of the day. Therefore, to sum it all up, the expression “fish out of water” comes to mind when I reflect on my feelings during the first few months of this year of service. I struggled a lot with finding my place here. Seeing and feeling Christ so deeply through my fellow VVC’s, St. Vincent de Paul staff, and West End communities helped to bridge that gap for me.
I have always been enchanted by the question, “What if God is one of us?”. As a Vincentian, I love to deepen my spirituality through pondering where I saw Christ that day. During this year of service with the Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati, I have met Christ countless times and in various ways; convincing me that God is indeed in all of us.
For me, God was in my community and He was disguised as Jack, Mary Ellen, Phyllis, Sarah, David, Carmen, and Preeya. I knew He was in them because I could feel His presence when the tough conversations were shared and when the conversations that had me laughing so hard I’d nearly fall out of my chair were shared. Jack resembled God through his humor, Mary Ellen through her leadership, Carmen through her selflessness, David through his patience, Preeya through her protectiveness, Sarah through her determination, and Phyllis through her dependability. I love and understand God deeper since sharing life with these seven people and I am a better, more authentic version of myself because I had them, specifically, to share the mission and time of VVC with.
The greater Cincinnati and West End community has also been a place where I’ve unfailingly met Christ. Mother Teresa once said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest to you.”. I feel this quote to be true in two different ways in the West End: in how I perceive being alongside my neighbors, and in how they have been alongside me. To accept that you cannot help everyone is a heavy cross to carry. My neighbors and this quote have made it less of a burden by carrying that cross with me. My friends in Cincinnati who would come into St. Vincent de Paul exuded love and pain in a way that exemplified Jesus beautifully. Their sacrifice of self for others, unconditional love for their neighbors, prayers with/for me, laughter, singing, and dancing shared, their hard working examples, and their praise for God above all else opened my heart and mind to the Vincentian mission in a new light. Too, they radiated the Lord to me and because of how they treated me as their neighbor, I see God in them.
The parish I celebrate mass with is St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. There, I was introduced to a hymn called “God has smiled on me”. The words are short, but powerful. When I think about my year in Cincinnati, and all the people I met God in, I can’t help but conclude that God is one of us and that He has smiled on me.