Last weekend, the five ABQ YAVs had the opportunity to tell stories at the Presbytery meeting held at Ghost Ranch. The idea of being willing, confident, and vulnerable enough to share stories is important. For many, storytelling can be what the church sometimes fails to be: a means of forming deep, meaningful, life-giving relationships. Stories are simple, but they can have a deep impact. For me, this story highlights a part of me that has been present for a long time, and a part that continues to affect how I live and process during this YAV year.
(Bethany, me, Claire, Audrey, and Ana after telling our stories at Ghost Ranch)
Here is my story of living in a state of tension:
As I pack my backpack for the day, my host mom, Doña Fátima, reminds me “Las dos fuentes más importantes de la vida son el sol y la solidaridad.” “The two most important sources of life are the sun and solidarity.”
I ride my bike down a beaten up road in rural Costa Rica. I pass fields of crops and grazing cows with spectacular mountains towering behind them. I arrive at a small pulpería, a convenient store, with a pottery workshop in the back. A man named Shaggy greets me with enthusiasm and immediately begins to teach. “We gather clay from the mountains and add natural spices to give the paint its color”, he tells me. He guides my hand as I shape the pot with an olote – an old corn cob harvested from his neighbors’ fields of heirloom corn. I rode to the town of Guaitíleach morning that week, learning each step in the process of throwing pots. Learning how a handful of fifth-generation artisans are fighting to keep alive the practices of their ancestors, the Chorotega Indians. Learning what it looks like to be a people who truly live from the sources of the sun and of solidarity.
I told this story to Luke (YAV Site Coordinator) and to Drew Henry during my interview with the Albuquerque YAV site in March. I told this story while sitting in the teachers’ lounge at the high school where I was student teaching. For the first time in over three months since I returned from my semester abroad, I told this story – Shaggy’s story.
My semester abroad was life-changing in that it forced me to see the world with wider lenses. Lenses that showed how God is so diverse and yet so the same, lenses that showed how complicit I am in a system that harms the people I now consider family, and lenses that showed me how much I have to learn. My semester abroad was an abrupt awakening, and yet I came home and immediately re-integrated myself into school-life and buried myself in my work. I didn’t make time to keep seeing with those wider lenses.
As I think about being a teacher, I often forget that some of the most impactful experiences that I have had as a student were times when there wasn’t a lesson plan, but the times when God opened up space for me to learn in a new way. It is in this realization where I feel a strong and ever-present tension.
How do I work in a system that values grades and achievement while intentionally making space for God to step in and teach? How do I encourage students to challenge and grow their worldview and not just their vocabulary or problem solving abilities? How do I learn and teach while being responsible to society and to God?
After meaningful experiences like the time I spent in Guaitíl, my initial question usually is “What do I do next?” And when I don’t know what to do – which is pretty often – I am reminded of a piece of advice I was given abroad, “Hay que vivir la lucha con alegría”, “You have to live the fight with happiness.” Maybe if I lean into these harsh truths and paradoxes with joy – realizing that is a privilege and a gift to struggle and learn – I will be able to more consciously depend on a spirit and on a God who is walking right beside me in the process. Perhaps my next step is not an action, but rather a state of being. A state of tension, of confusion, of discomfort, and of trust.
To read more of Taylor's stories, click here.