On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Kate Ackert continues our daily Advent reflection series by writing about the power of a simple encounter with optimism.

This past summer, I had the privilege of embarking on a two-week journey to South Africa with the Franciscan Mission Service and the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy at Siena College. While on the trip, Fr. Russel, the Director of the Franciscan Center touched my life in ways I thought were not possible. I first met Fr. Russel when I received my acceptance for the trip. He seemed like a jolly man who was young at heart and full of adventure. Now, I know him as many other things: father, counselor, big brother, and friend.

Kate and Fr. Russel

I was seated next to Fr. Russel on the first leg of the journey to South Africa: a 15-hour flight from New York to Johannesburg. As the lights on the flight turned off and the attendants passed out eye masks for us to use to go to sleep, a young girl, perhaps three or four, seated behind us started to sing nursery rhymes. I felt a little frustrated because I was trying to sleep. Fr. Russel got a big grin on his face, turned to me and said, “I’m going to enjoy being lulled to sleep by her songs.”

When he said this to me, I realized that I could see each occurrence in my life pessimistically or optimistically. I could now see this little girl behind me singing on a plane as a joy, or as annoying. I chose to see her as a gift from God, and then I too, drifted off to sleep as she sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. I now realize that I can apply this newfound knowledge to other parts of my life.

I didn’t do well on my test? I can either choose to mope about my bad grade, or I can study more for the next one. I get injured during practice? I can choose to take that time to rest up, catch up on my schoolwork, and become mentally strong, or I can sulk in a corner for a month. From Fr. Russel, I learned that no matter what happens to me, I can turn a bad situation into a positive outcome, and I learned that I have control over my own attitude. If you love life, life will love you back.

Coming tomorrow: “Witness to Friendship” by Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM

Kate Ackert is a sophomore at Siena College. She attended a short-term mission trip with Franciscan Mission Service.

Help shine the light! Make a donation to Franciscan Mission Service this Advent.