“When I have a piece of bread and eat the whole piece, I am full. When I have a piece of bread and share it with the person who is hungry next to me, I am more full.” – Luis Lopez
These wise words (which may not be exactly word for word but very close to it) were told to us at our last Sunday meeting with Luis Lopez, an El Salvadoran who knew Padre Cortina. These are the words that will stay with me as Luis departs on his journey. Simply enough, this is one of the many messages that helps to define my journey through Cortina thus far.
During one of my life chats with a good friend, conversations with friends and floor mates about life, I asked him what he has gotten the most out of Cortina thus far and after sharing his response he turned the question on me. As soon as this moment arrived I realized how complicated trying to put everything into words and sentences that express my true thankfulness and love for this community is. So, here is my attempt at sharing my experience with Cortina so far. (in no particular order)
First, I am so thankful for this community. Cortina has given me a lot to think about and a lot of personal discovery to go through and this community is filled with people I can relate to. It allows me to have life chats, which more than anything allows me to express my thoughts and struggles out loud, thus putting them into reality. I know that no matter what I have someone to turn to, to have fun with, to share with, and to grow with.
Service has been a huge part of my experience in Cortina. I attend CrossOver Prison Ministries and participate in a bible study and fellowship with current and former inmates. I am also starting a correspondence program with current inmates. Talk about eye opening. I am getting to know these people for who they are, seeing them outside of their stigma and label and finding out what struggles they face as they try and start their transition back into the “real world”. We share stories and experiences that allow each of us to see how we are much more alike than we thought.
Every Sunday we have meetings in which we’ll have a speaker or a presentation. These meetings introduce a new issue that faces our world and community. It can be overwhelming. We are introduced to a new injustice and there are so many out there. It is difficult trying to think, “ok, what can I do in my capacity as a middle-class college student who lives in Omaha, NE?” It’s frustrating at times because there is so much that I want to do but I do not personally have enough time or resources to be able to do everything. So, as part of my personal growth journey, I am trying to figure out what I am most passionate about, what to dedicate my time to, and what to share as much of myself as I can with. I’m slowly trying to figure it out… I’ll let you know if and when I decide on one or two.
And then faith. My faith has only strengthened because of Cortina. There is no specific faith that coincides with Cortina and it is not a requirement to have a faith of any sort. But this community is open to faith discussions and sharing of where we come from based on our faith.
So, I just reflected, unknowingly at the time, on the four pillars of Cortina – my RAs will be proud. But truly, these pillars are part of my foundation and experience in Cortina and are such an underlying part of Cortina for me.
So now I ask myself how will Luis’ message fit into my journey in Cortina. That is a question that I do not have an answer for yet. Yes, I can relate to Luis’ message but I have a feeling that it will somehow tie in much deeper. Sometimes looking for the answer will make it more difficult to find, but rather the better idea may be to live life in the present and be open to what may come. A good (Cortina) friend shared this quote with me a few weeks ago:
“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the question now. Perhaps then, some day far in the future, you will gradually without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” -Rainer Maria Rilke
So, I will live. And I will live openly and in solidarity with others.