Last summer, a colleague and I took a group of students to Kingston for an immersion experience partnered with an organization that cares for people with different abilities living in Jamaica and a few other countries. In addition to building relationships with the residents and staff of the community, they usually have a hefty work project for which they can use a large group of energetic teenage boys. The full days of hard work, energetic play with the kids, and Jamaican heat combined with close quarters naturally lead to some tension within the group.
One student in particular was notorious for being the first to grab seconds at meals and was not the most aware of his classmates’ hunger and frustration—and that of the adults as well.
On one of our last days of taxing work in intense heat, our supervisors brought over a long awaited cooler of refreshing cold water which also signaled our break time. As we gathered our water bottles, I will give you one guess as to who jumped to the front of the line.
But then, just as I (and I assume the rest of the group) was about to explode in frustration only intensified by the exhaustion from our week, I saw him take the water bottle and walk it over to a resident who had been hanging around our work site.
In Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we read, “do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts...” (1 Corinthians 4:5)
On that day in Jamaica, I was pleasantly surprised to find my assumptions incorrect and my student’s motives generous and loving. He ended that immersion on a high note and, after a year of more growth in maturity, made a great leader when we returned to Jamaica this July.
The truth is, we can never really know someone else’s heart. Humanity limits understanding. So rather than jumping to conclusions and risking outbursts in frustration, I pray to follow the Ignatian Presupposition and strive to “Trust in the Lord and do good.” (Psalm 37:3)
Are you struggling with judgment and harsh conclusions? Pray this Psalm and hold it in your heart.
Sarah Stanley is a small town Ohio girl who is mildly obsessed with all things Ignatian and is very passionate about faith, social justice, and the intersection of the two. She recently earned her Master of Divinity and now serves as the Director of Christian Service at a high school in New England. When she’s not working, she enjoys contagious laughter, travel, clever puns, and finding the good in all things. You can find out more about her here.