Editor’s Note: Programs Associate Kevin Ruano describes a conversation he had with DC Service Corp member Nayeli Garcia about her openness with others and her quiet confidence.
She sat comfortably on the couch in our community living room. Her voice and laugh may be soft, perhaps would have been drowned by others if we were talking in the dining room where many remained after dinner to keep talking about their days, but don’t let that fool you! Nayeli Garcia, my fellow DC Service Corps volunteer, speaks with resoluteness in the path she has chosen and who she has come to be, and stands willing to share with all in our community the stories that have shaped her and her confidence. Confidence she developed throughout her time contributing to the campus ministry of Neumann University in Pennsylvania.
“I wanted to be sociable. I wanted to be able to talk to anyone about anything,” said Nayeli when reflecting about the goals she had set for herself as a first-year on campus. “And that’s one thing I am really thankful for, at my university I was able to be part of campus ministry,” she continued. “I was able to build those relationships with people.”
According to her, she was able to successfully integrate herself and become a leader in a community with a Catholic faith because she was open to sharing her own experience of dialoging with God. At her first retreat, she saw herself, “having this relationship with God, speaking to him and [hoping] whatever [she] was saying was a way that others can say ‘this person is genuinely opening up to me’”.
During her sophomore year, Nayeli went on a retreat that really surprised her. “People opened up about their relationship with God, their beliefs around love, and why we were all there for a reason,” she said. The retreat gave her the chance to realize that she was never really alone even among strangers. One of the activities included for the participants of the retreat was having a conversation with someone they had never spoken to. Everyone was paired up with a stranger. Her partner was someone on Newman University’s hockey team.
“I always thought ‘ugh, he’s a hockey player’ – they’re the athletes,” said Nayeli as she recalled her initial feelings towards the encounter. “But once you get to meet a person you stop doing that.” She proceeded to reflect, “From there, little by little, I started feeling more confident with myself and actually started leading these retreats.”
Nayeli understands confidence and openness to be the two characteristics of her personality which supported her when she led retreats for her fellow students. She recollected that at one point she told everyone, “I am going to be honest with you I am really awkward and shy but I am going to say it to you guys.” After recognizing or rather, claiming who she was before everyone, she said, “People felt like ‘okay, I can speak to you because you are opening up to me’. They felt very comfortable with me.”
Ironically, Nayeli is not at all shy or quiet about her shyness or being quiet. She has in the past claimed and continues to claim who she is—unafraid to share her true self with her communities. A gift, no doubt, for our own community at the Casa San Salvador. We may have begun to discuss her experiences with campus ministry to discover what matters to her, but our conversation left me knowing that there was something that mattered to both of us—sincerity.
Reflection Question: In what areas of your life is God calling you to be more open?