Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Joleen Johnson reflects on the meaning of accompaniment and friendship. 


My close friend and fellow missioner Rhonda Eckerman, who is serving on the U.S.-Mexico border, recently helped me brainstorm ideas for the topic of this blog. As I reflected on some of the ideas presented, I embraced a moment of appreciation for Rhonda and for her generosity in spending her time wanting to help me think about what to write about. My mind (or the Holy Spirit) quickly took me to thoughts about the many other things and qualities that I appreciate about Rhonda. I realized after our conversation that Rhonda is particularly savvy at accompanying me.

Perhaps my favorite part of Franciscan spirituality that we learned about in formation is the concept of accompaniment. In my own interpretation and words, accompaniment is walking through life with another and providing a space to share burdens, lending an attentive listening ear, and empathizing with another in their joys and pains of life. Accompaniment means that you don’t have to go through life all alone, and it means that someone else is present with you and there for you. Accompanying has always been my favorite part of being a friend, though until I was imparted with education about Franciscanism, I didn’t have the term “accompaniment” to describe why I enjoyed being a friend so much. 

It wasn’t until talking to Rhonda recently that I realized that accompanying feels a lot more recognizable to me than being accompanied. I took an opportunity to reflect on the ways that others have accompanied me over the past year. A humble appreciation emerged as I thought about how people in my life have shown up for me, and supported me, and walked through processing with me. Friends in my life have listened so well to me and have given sound advice and encouragement. In the past year, many, many people have had extreme patience with me, and some have even slowed down to my pace. I even had a friend drive 6 hours to my house and sit in my disastrously messy room for three days, helping me clean it up and organize and pack before I leave for Jamaica for two years. Somebody accompanying me has been a blessing to behold. The switch from being needed to being in need myself, and from giving to receiving gifts of time and care and friendship, has brought the notion of accompaniment full circle and given me a much more whole understanding. 

To all of you reading, thank you for your accompaniment. Thank you for walking alongside me. Thank you for asking questions. And thank you for taking time with me. Ultimately, thank you for taking the walk with me. To all of you reading who I’ve never met, thank you for accompanying the people in your life, and for the support and presence that you share with them. Thank you for saying yes to that nudge to walk with someone or sit with someone in whatever they are going through. And thank you for saying yes to being inconvenienced in order to show someone else that you care about them and that they are worth your time.

What a representation of Jesus we can be as friends when we take the time to care about and accompany each other. If a friend or family member or even a stranger can care this much, how much more does the Father care about each of us and walk with us daily in every moment?