Our latest blog post comes from Dominican Volunteer Kateri Golbiw. Kateri serves as Assistant Campus Minister at Immaculate Conception Academy Cristo Rey High School in San Francisco, California. She reflects on her journey to San Francisco and how her two friends and coworkers, “Joyful” and “Gratitude” have shaped her along the way.
For years, my favorite adjective has been ‘joyful’. Happiness isn’t the same thing as joy, for it is fleeting and caused by an outer force. Joy, however, is deeply rooted, and can be present even in the midst of sorrow. However, it can fade when a person becomes lost to who they are meant to be.
One year ago I had just been matched with my ministry site, ICA Cristo Rey, as their potential Assistant Campus Minister (and work-study commute chaperone...and lunch lady...and sometimes choir director/piano player...volunteers wear many hats!). My mom, the occasional helicopter, "encouraged" me to not leave for San Francisco once the position was secured. And I, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for adventure, brushed off her warnings of missing home (and of leaving my heart in SF...which happened in my first week. This city has me wrapped around its little peninsula!). For the month leading up to my actual departure, since I am truly a homebody and not Nellie Bly, I was inclined to agree with her. However, I had this pull on my heart, and despite the nerves, I was at peace: I knew God was calling, and I had to heed that call.
Gypsy Aroon, age 7
After I moved to SF, I began to realize that I had become so negative, that I could hardly find any joy. I had left home, family, friends, and my baby (aka my dog), Gypsy. I was beyond any form of homesickness that I could recognize. I’d been in a school of some sort for 21 of my 25 years, and working in a school wasn’t the same as being a student. I was completely lost.
My inner joy kept fading, slowly disappearing “like baby teeth, losing parts of me I thought I needed.”  I became the person I always swore I wouldn’t. Not only was I negative and dark, but I didn’t appreciate what I had right in front on me. Here I thought that the part of me I was losing was no longer needed, when it was really ALL I needed. Instead of recognizing that I have good friends right here in SF, my dream job, an amazing support system, and I'm living in the most wonderful city, room and board free, all I saw is what I was lacking. I have no family here. No old friends. A huge, strange city. “We all want something beautiful,”  but do we actually recognize that beauty, when it is right in front of us?
Enter two of my co-workers-turned-friends.
The first is the most joyous person I know. Scarves are her "thing," it's rare to see her without a smile on her face, and whenever I need a hug (which is often, because I'm a hugger!), she's ready. This woman has been through so much, and faces struggles I’ll never be able to imagine. Through it all, she is positive. She is Joyful, and has led me to find and recognize joy in all that I do.
The second appeared in a Thanksgiving video my Campus Ministry team put together about what people are thankful for. His simple response was that he is “thankful for everything.” He is Gratitude, and he reminds me to express my gratitude for everything, even (and most especially), for the hard things. Even when he's cutting a wisdom tooth, he's smiling and talking my Irish temper down, reminding me to be thankful for the beautiful day.
“There’ll be days like this…when your boots will fill with rain, and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment. And those are the very days you have all the more reason to say ‘thank you.’ You will put the ‘win’ in winsome…lose some. You will put the ‘star’ in starting over…and over. And no matter how many landmines erupt in a minute, be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.”[3a]
I’m trying to live a life of Joyful Gratitude, because otherwise there will always be another force pulling me with it, like the moon pulls the ocean. I, like the ocean, may not have any control over being swept away when others work in my life, but I CAN choose to kiss the shore with joy and in gratitude upon my return.[3b] Of all the things that I can choose...
I can choose to be affirming, joyful, loving, and grateful.