If I were to pick two criteria critical to a volunteer lifestyle, they would be flexibility and patience. A Passionist Volunteer MUST be flexible and patient. In Jamaica, everything happens a little bit slower, from the mail to mass on Sundays, pretty much everything here except the cars on the road are at a slower pace. Waiting is the norm and plans constantly get changed. Even though we have the same schedule each week, no two weeks are the same. We might change our schedule one week for a funeral and the next week for an event at another community member’s site. We have to be flexible because if we were not willing to change our schedule, we would miss out on a lot of important events happening and it would hinder our experience here in Jamaica.
For those who do not know me, I am a very flexible person when it comes to scheduling. I always think I can do more than I actually can, which leaves me with a full schedule and it’s part of the reason why I am late for everything. The relaxed atmosphere in Jamaica is perfect for me because here I am not judged for being late. One of the most popular sayings in Jamaica is “soon come,” which often does not mean what Americans think of as soon. Here it can mean anything from minutes to hours or even days or weeks.
However, as flexible as I am, I am not a very patient person, and that is something that I am working on this year. When I was invited to come to Jamaica in March by Fr. Lucian, I had to be patient for the next four months until I actually landed in Jamaica and started my year here.
As a PVI, you have to expect the unexpected. Sometimes when you’re in a rush to get somewhere and it’s pouring rain out, you get a flat tire. You have to be able to be flexible when you show up to an infirmary or nursing home and you’re in a great mood, but maybe that day the people you are visiting are depressed or do not want to talk. Flexibility in that situation means accompanying people through their suffering by just being there and holding their hand. I have learned in Jamaica that words do not always work when trying to cheer someone up, sometimes your presence is all you can offer and is the only thing that they really want.
“sometimes your presence is all you can offer.”
Patience and flexibility are two things that PVIs must learn throughout their year. We do not have office jobs or deadlines; our job is to be with people by accompanying them on their journey. We must be both patient and flexible so we may better accompany the people we encounter.
By: Tim Manning PVI 15′-16′