|Seeing others as God sees them|
On Wednesday, November 9, the Upper School held a chapel prayer service with the theme of "service." Nicole Polemeni-Hegarty gave a reflection that shows the transforming power of real service.
This is Nicole's reflection -
"When I found out that the Network Service Project I had chosen last year was cancelled and I was reassigned to the Clown Academy, I could think was “oh boy...”. I didn’t know much about Clown Academy, but I heard that I would have to trapeze, tight rope, and learn how to use a unicycle. I hurt just thinking about it. All those who know me know I am probably the clumsiest person alive. For all of those who don’t know me, my name is Nicole Polemeni-Hegarty and I am a junior here at Sacred Heart. This past summer was my first year doing a Network Service Project and I had no idea what to expect when I arrived in Princeton, New Jersey to start my week of clowning.
Let me paint a picture for you… I walk into this massive gym with a trapeze, unicycles, stilts, tightropes, you name it. I just stood there. I was only thinking two things: 1) how was clowning going to serve as a form of community service? and 2) how on earth was I going to survive this place? While I learned about clowning, what I didn’t expect to learn was sacrifice and leadership.
During introductions I learned that one other girl and I were the eldest teenagers of 14 young girls and boys participating in the Network Service Project. I was told then that I was expected to be a leader and I thought “I’ve got this.” Before I left for Princeton, I thought I knew what it meant to be a leader. At home, I am expected to set a good example for my two younger brothers and raise the bar of expectations for them. At school, I participate in and lead clubs and committees and I am familiar with organizing groups and speaking in front of crowds. I thought that being a leader meant being a strong individual, but, as you can probably predict, since this is a reflection, this idea was wrong.
I worked hard that week to "perfect" my clowning skills, getting bruises ranging all the way from my shins to my face. When it came time to see what roles we were going to play in the performances and workshops, I was assigned two not very exciting roles: the role of MC (since all I really had to do was talk) and to teach slapstick, which happens to be the art of falling down. Wow…so much for being that said leader…
Because of the two somewhat embarrassing roles I was going to play in our performances, I was a little discouraged when we went to do our first act at a nursing home. I had a revelation though. I was standing in that room, moping about my bruises and my failure to be a "quote-on-quote" leader, only thinking about myself. My definition of a leader had been based around how strong I was and how much I was making a difference. I looked around at the elderly in the room and my mostly 13-year-old peers and asked myself “what would God be thinking of this right now?” I realized that he wouldn’t see this service as an individual good, but rather as a group good. I had to sacrifice my idea of what a leader was meant to be in order to be a real group leader.
I learned what service work really means that week. It doesn’t mean going away for a few days to get community service hours, or doing a project to put on your résumé. Nor does it mean proving yourself to be a “good person” or, in my case, a “good leader”. It means sacrificing yourself, in whatever way possible to make the greatest amount of difference. It means seeing the world and the people in it the way God sees them and seeing the transformative power of service.
So yes, I may have had to fall on my face and not have as many acts as the others in my group, but this did not mean that I was not a leader. We lead as a group, and we clowns did, as a group, made a difference.