Surrender: (verb) a willful acceptance and giving up of one’s own will and subjects their thoughts, ideas and deeds to those of a higher power
As I reflect on my last seven months serving and teaching at De La Salle Blackfeet School, I have found power and truth in “surrendering.” Moving to the “Big Sky” state of Montana, living with four other Lasallian Volunteers and two Christian Brothers, and finding myself immersed in a new culture and population was completely overwhelming! Everything was new. I felt lost and inadequate for all that I was asked to do. I was given four classes that had little curriculum while being new to the school. I had to balance creating all my lessons and materials from scratch and intentionally develop relationships with my students and coworkers. It was a lot, and I didn’t know where to start. I held onto everything so tightly because I thought that if I didn’t, I might fail and let down the students who were entrusted to my care. I controlled everything, not allowing myself to be flexible and adjust to the needs of my students or even recognize my own needs. This left me feeling exhausted, frustrated and alone.
In the midst of the chaos and confusion, one of the biggest blessings of my experience this far has been the community. This includes not only my immediate community of other LVs, but also the whole teaching staff at De La Salle Blackfeet School. When I didn’t know how to teach a whole class text or was challenged by students’ behaviors, I was forced to surrender my pride and ask for help. Thinking this would leave me looking weak, I was surprised to find that I felt more confident. Sharing my struggles and learning from experienced teachers as they shared their wisdom and little tips and tricks made all the difference in my service and teaching. I realized that I can’t do this alone and that I need to rely on others. To an even greater extent, I discovered that I was never meant to do it alone in the first place.
One of my favorite sayings is, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I know that God has invited me on this Lasallian journey to be the one to care for those who can’t always care for themselves and guide children into becoming incredible young adults. Though I experience challenges and always seem to have mountains of work (no pun intended), God has also provided me with everything I need. The greatest gift has been my supportive community whose dedication to the Lasallian mission is relentless. Surrendering everything to Christ and realizing that I am not supposed to do it all or fix everything is a relief. I am merely a partaker in God’s work. It takes everyone joined together to truly serve and impact the lives of our children.
As I reflect on how much I have grown, I recognize the power in surrendering and the joy it can bring. Working at De La Salle Blackfeet School has its challenges, but also the most fulfilling rewards. When simply being present to the students, I find they say some pretty hilarious and ridiculous things that can brighten any bad day. When attuned to their varying social, emotional, and physical needs, I am struck by their resiliency. My students are my best teachers because they challenge me to be compassionate and creative in every encounter. Without verbalizing it, they ask me to be a better teacher, coach, nurse and counselor for them. Amongst everything else, the greatest lesson my students have taught me is how to adjust to the highs and lows, the disappointments and joys, of each moment. Several times throughout the day the kids ask to pray and we stop to remind ourselves that “we are in the Holy Presence of God.” It is in these moments where I can offer up to God the blessings and challenges of each day, let go of all that I am carrying, and continue on.
Serving as a Lasallian Volunteer has truly transformed me and I am blessed to be a part of this Lasallian mission. Every day I have the power to surrender, to let go of the things I cannot control and choose to show up for those entrusted to my care. And that is the greatest joy.
Jessica Bauer is a first-year volunteer at De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana, and serves as the 5th grade health/wellness, reading, language arts and math teacher. She is a 2019 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota with a degree in elementary education.