My dear Brother William loves to play with words. Puns are used in his daily language, and he does it so well that you roll your eyes all the way to the back of your head, but then laugh. “Hahaha, stop encouraging him!” Brother Dennis then exclaims. Part of being a Lasallian Volunteer is living in an intentional community with Christian Brothers and other LVs. I am living in the Brother Charles Henry Community in Providence, Rhode Island. This means we share meals, prayers and chores. It also means we share love, laughter and lessons. I’ve learned so much from being an LV, including how to play around with words.
One time, when I was sharing with my friends how my year of service was going, I said, “Reflect, I honestly reflect so much that I’m basically a mirror!” Yes, I got an eye-roll followed by a pity-laugh. I’ve been thinking about the word “reflect” a lot. A LOT. Reflective thoughts, reflecting light, reflection on a mirror. This word dances all around in my head.
Every morning at The San Miguel School of Providence, our school gathers for assembly. Each week, staff members are assigned to lead reflection, to present Artist, Drummer, Writer, and Miguel Man of the week, and to make announcements. I love that this is how we start the day. We start the day by being together. We start the day by reflecting light upon ourselves and more importantly, upon each other.
When I studied at Manhattan College, I took a human relations course with the late Brother Ray Meagher, FSC. Brother Ray shared with us many heart-felt ideas and moments, but in particular, he once shared mirrors with the class. He handed out tiny mirrors to each of us. He said, “Be a light, bring positivity! But, also be like a mirror and reflect light into the lives of others.” I witness this every day at San Miguel. Working with a diverse group of 63 boys from challenging backgrounds, I see the ways these students and our staff shine and reflect light through love.
Before committing to my year of service at San Miguel, I travelled to Providence for the first time and visited the school. Immediately, I recognized the San Miguel culture being driven by the staff’s dedication to the Lasallian mission and by the students’ drive to succeed together. Every unique person who studies, works and supports this school is a light and a mirror here.
Being a Lasallian Volunteer means wearing multiple hats in school. And it’s not just me and Sarah, my fellow LV! We all play multiple roles, and I see us accomplish so much together. I see the principal, dean of students, executive director and teachers running all over to cover classes, coach sports, shop for supplies, cover leaks, attend to injuries and create a safe and growth-producing environment for the boys at all cost. Yet, no job in San Miguel feels demeaning to any staff member; in fact, every action is with meaningful intentions. Truly, work is always filled with different challenging situations and conflicts, but every day is also filled with light. San Miguel is a space for the kids and all of us to shine and reflect. We inspire each other, encourage each other, comfort each other, and love each other. Working here, I find myself always reflective of the ways beautiful people shine and reflect light into my life.
I love being a Lasallian Volunteer. I am surrounded by beautiful bright lights. Other than in community and ministry, other LVs I am blessed to love are beautiful people who inspire and motivate me every day. Every gathering, formal or not, I find us sitting in a circle. A circle bright like a sun, but also like a mirror! Not just the reflective thoughts that we share with one another in discussions and conversations, but I see light. All of these compassionate and passionate hearts reflect the light of faith, service and community right into my life.
Exploring a new state, working in a new place, living with a new community, being an LV is not easy, but it’s worth every reflective moment of it.
Kaiyun Chen is a first-year volunteer serving at The San Miguel School of Providence in Rhode Island as an academic assistant. She is a 2019 graduate of Manhattan College with a major in English Secondary Education.