Editor’s Note: Missioner Tom Little shares how for him, Lent has been a time to let go of worries about the future and instead focus on the people and places of the present.
There are a lot of things that you have to let go when you go on mission in rural Bolivia: friends, family, hockey, decent beer and a culture that you understand. One thing that I didn’t expect to have to let go of, though at least for the short term, was the future.
I live in a community that changes every few months; saying goodbye so often is a difficult, but expected challenge. In my short time in Bolivia I have seen short and long term volunteers, priests, sisters, students and administrators come and go.
An unavoidable consequence of this is hearing about other people’s future plans and wanting to think about my own.
Most of the other things that I have to let go of here are tangible- there is nothing I can do if they aren’t available. On the other hand, the future only lives in our minds with infinite possibilities. If you aren’t careful you can end up living in two places at once, a physical one and an imaginary one.
Mission with FMS is not meant to be a permanent- the work that we will do when we return is just as important as the work we do in country. Knowing that there is an eventual end to my time in Bolivia keeps the thought of what is next ever present. I have to continually work to let go of thoughts of the future to be present in the moment.
I think trying to stay in the present moment is a little bit easier during the Lenten season. For me it is a time to slow down and reflect on the choices that I make. During Lent my community members and I do a nightly reflection from Richard Rohr’s Wondrous Encounters, a book given to me by a friend who has since gone back to the US for health reasons. I think it is a fitting resource to use because real wondrous encounters on mission are not possible if I am living in the future instead of the present.
I know that there are a lot of difficult decisions that need to be made in the coming months, mainly whether to stay for a third year or not. However, I know at least for these 40 days I won’t be thinking too much about them.
Reflection Question: What are some things in your daily life that are preventing you from being fully present?