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Day 21: Goodness

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Editor’s Note: On this twenty-first day of our Advent blog series “Hidden Joys,” FMS’ Executive Director Liz Hughes reflects on the importance of seeing goodness in the world.

Earlier this fall, Fr. Joe Nangle ended a homily in the FMS chapel with a poignant story and the reflection: “If people only knew how good they are.”  Can you imagine what would change in our world if people really believed how good and loved they — and, thus, we all — are?  

Advent seems like an ideal liturgical season to invite my own appreciation of the goodness that surrounds me.  

In the early days of the pandemic, Susan and I befriended each other outside of the Panera Bread in downtown DC.  Experiencing homelessness at the time, Susan was a consistent conversation partner and someone who easily shared both cheerful greetings and laments on her challenging situation.  One day, I brought my puppy Flurry for Susan, a fellow dog lover, to meet.  Overwhelmed by the city noise, Flurry wiggled out of her new harness and started running through traffic.  I learned that day that most people in downtown DC are not receptive to a large dog coming up to them unannounced!  As Flurry floated from person to person and I frantically chased her, Susan stepped into the middle of the street, held her arms open wide to both sides, and stopped traffic.  Months later, she and I still recount how she saved Flurry (and me!) that day.  These days, she comes to visit Flurry in the backseat of my car, cheerfully admonishing, “I don’t feel like chasing you today, puppy dog.”  


A recent story in The Washington Post suggests that awe may be the most undervalued emotion.  The author speculates that the most common source of awe is other people’s goodness, a combination of kindness and courage.  That encapsulates my experience of Susan’s goodness: kindness and courage in her vulnerable sharing in our regular conversations; kindness and courage in a moment when I needed help and it could have been easy to look the other way, as others did that day.     

This Advent, I feel drawn to recognize and stand in awe of the goodness all around me.  It is abundant.  It is a gift from God.  It is grace-filled.  While I may be more apt to pay attention in Advent, the goodness isn’t limited to this liturgical season.  Rather, it is all-permeating.  Perhaps that’s why St. Francis was known for his greeting Pax et Bonum, Peace and All Good.  St. Francis must have understood, as Fr. Joe does, that we all need that reminder of goodness.  My hope this Advent and beyond is to let the impact of such goodness truly permeate my encounters – with self, with others, and with God.   

Question for reflection: Where has goodness permeated your day?

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Liz is thrilled to lead FMS. It is an honor to partner with individuals living and serving in solidarity with individuals in economically poor communities. Liz’s own mission commitment was shaped through serving as a 4th grade teacher in Birmingham, Alabama with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and later as a teacher in a bilingual Catholic elementary school in Juticalpa, Honduras.

Liz comes to FMS from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where she served as the Director of the International Program for three years. Previously, she dedicated over a decade to serving in internationally focused positions with the U.S. government, including two years in Mexico City. Liz graduated with an M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.S in International Studies and Management from Boston College.

In her free time, Liz enjoys tutoring DC junior high students, learning languages, reading, exploring hidden gems of DC, traveling, retreats, and sharing time with family and friends. She is pictured here with her nephew, Benjamin!