Editor’s Note: The following blog entry is from Tim Gallagher, a senior at De Sales University and an associate of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. This past summer, Tim and four other Oblate associates spent a month with the students from Nativity at De Sales University, serving as teachers, counselors, and mentors for the students. Tim’s reflection is a good example of how we can learn much about ourselves when we reach out to others in service.
Last year I was lucky enough to serve on the inaugural staff of the Oblate Associate Nativity Summer Program (OANS). The OANS program works in conjunction with the Nativity Prep School of Wilmington, DE. The middle school was opened by the Oblates a number of years ago for lower income families to send their sons, free of charge. The school has extended school days and an extended school year to offer the best possible educational experience for the students. Part of the extended school year is a 4 week summer camp experience, and this is where the Oblate Associates come in. We serve as teachers and coaches to the boys and have the opportunity to form a discernment community for ourselves.
I was asked to serve on the staff again this past July. At first, I was apprehensive and nervous about returning to the camp. My main concern was that the boys would not be happy to see me because the year earlier was a very tough summer and my best qualities were not always the ones that the boys got to see. The first summer I was frustrated, and to be honest I was happy to see the boys leave, because the days were very stressful. This summer though, I learned the meaning of Francis de Sales’ quote “Be patient in all things but most especially be patient with yourself.”
I apprehensively returned to the camp this year and was met with smiles and welcomes from the boys. I was most nervous about seeing one student in particular, Jahmeer, because he and I did not see eye-to-eye at all last year and he thought I was a, well let’s leave it at, less than charitable person. When I found out I had this student in my 8th grade grammar class, I was even more anxious. By remaining calm and gentle with Jahmeer, I was able to establish a relationship with him. On one occasion, we were having a discussion in class about who the boys trusted in their life to give them advice, and my little friend said “I would have to say you, Mr. Gallagher, because you are always there for us and we can talk to you about anything.” He and I had made so much progress from the year before that by the end of camp he came up to me and gave me a huge hug and asked if he could stay in contact with me throughout the year if he ever needed it.
Jahmeer gave me an insight into the true meaning of patience and forgiveness. It is my hope that we can all learn something about patience from this 8th grader from Wilmington, and welcome people back into our lives that may have caused us to hurt, and provide them a second chance to build a relationship with us. We all must be patient with ourselves and learn from our past so that our future may be better.