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All Great and Precious Things

Blog Headers 2022-23 (13)

Editor’s note: Inspired by a quote from John Steinbeck, missioner Julia Pinto reflects on what loneliness is teaching her while serving on mission in the US-Mexico border region.

She shows up and greets us
in the crowded gathering,
office cubicle,
family home,
jail cell,
big city, small town.

We often ignore her,
distracting ourselves
with busyness,
with entertainment,
with stuff.

I believe every person,
from time to time,
to varying degrees,
experiences loneliness.
Nobody is immune.

Living simply
in a foreign place,
removes my normal buffers
and helps me accept
my honest reality.

This is how some people
feel constantly.
Even with loving friends,
I can feel out of place.
Insufficient physical affection.
Longing for something more.

In this life I’ve freely chosen,
there’s no TV,
no aimless spending,
no games on my phone or computer,
no piles to sort,
no dating.

This distractionless space
allows me to explore my hobbies;
write letters to dear ones;
practice meditative movement;
discover my hidden talents and passions.
Reflect on my life’s dreams.

Life on mission has taught me
to embrace loneliness
as my companion,
my teacher.
She comes to remind me
to seek life and connection
beyond my inner walls.

It’s uncomfortable.
Having to admit
to myself and to others
that I need something
outside of myself.

In the silence,
in the beauty of creation,
she points me to God,
the perfect balm for this space
within me.

She pushes me to look for
and encounter the loneliness
within another person.
In the children at the orphanage.
In my fellow volunteers.

I can use my skills
to help others find connection.
Too many lonely people in this town.
Let’s bring them together!

Without loneliness,
would we discover
the beauty of community?

“All great and precious things are lonely.” – John Steinbeck

That includes you and me.

Questions for Reflection: How do you respond to feelings of loneliness? How can you foster connection, creativity, or curiosity in your moments of loneliness?

Julia graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas in May 2015 with a BS in Mathematics and a Math Teacher Certification at the ripe age of 20. She taught Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus and Statistics for four years in a public high school in Richardson, Texas, as well as another year in a private school in Takoma Park, Maryland. Julia’s desire to serve and minister like St. Francis drew her to Washington D.C. to work as a Publications and Communications Associate with the US Catholic Mission Association through the DC Service Corps program, where she researched and helped support various mission organizations around the world. This call to mission now pushes Julia to venture beyond D.C. to serve as a missioner on the US-Mexico border. In her free time, Julia enjoys reading, working out, dancing, meeting strangers, and solving all kinds of puzzles.