To highlight the service component of the Nonprofit Leadership Program (positions are currently available), Franciscan Fridays are currently featuring reflections from program associates about their experiences with weekly direct service. 

Enjoy other entries in this series:
Today’s post by former program associate Chanda Ikachana focuses on the simple power of paying attention to the needs of others.

After serving for a year in the Nonprofit Leadership Program, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what ministry of presence is because it is a defining component of Franciscan Mission Service’s identity. But one afternoon at Mary House, where I volunteered every week as part of the Nonprofit Leadership Program, I found a deeper meaning of what it means to be present.

It happened when I noticed that one of our kids was more reserved than usual. He simply sat in his chair, seemingly uninterested in what was going on.

“All he needed was someone to hear his frustrations.”

At one point, he just put his head on the table. At that point, I called him aside and asked him what was wrong. He wouldn’t respond at first, but after a little prodding, he told me the problem: he felt that he wasn’t good at anything. His mom had gotten his recent report card several days ago, and his grades had been poor. She’d gotten upset and literally told him that he wasn’t good at anything and couldn’t do anything right.

We had a little talk. I explained that he might not have done so well in a few classes, but that doesn’t mean he’s not good at anything. I told him that everyone has different gifts, and we’re not all good at everything, and that’s not a bad thing; it just means that we have to try a little harder some times more than others.

We talked about some ways he could try harder, like ask for extra help from the teacher when he didn’t understand something. He agreed to this but went on to vent for several more minutes, telling me about all the things that had been bothering him, including the fights he had with his brother, and the feelings of not being good enough.

After we talked for a while, we went back to the classroom, and he was energized again. I realized after that moment that perhaps all he needed was someone to hear his frustrations. It showed me how important it is to simply be attentive to kids. To be present, listen, and give each individual your attention is truly the ultimate ministry.

Originally from Zambia, Chanda Ikachana is a former program associate in the Nonprofit Leadership Program. She currently works for Service Coordination, Inc. providing case management services to people with disabilities by helping people understand what their choices are and connecting them to resources in their communities in ways that respect their dignity and rights.