Communicating Compassion

group picDuring this past Spring Break, I was fortunate enough to go to Bethphage Village in Axtell, NE. Through this experience, I got the opportunity to get to know individuals living with intellectual disabilities. I came into this trip with little knowledge of intellectual disabilities and the struggles that these members of our society are facing. Admittedly, I was very awkward the first day I was with the residents. Because many of the residents could not verbally speak, I was at a loss for how to communicate with them.

This began to change after I met a man I’ll call Ethan. From the moment I met him, it was clear what a joyful spirit he has. Every day when I would walk into the room, Ethan would get the most enormous smile on his face and stretch out his hand towards me. I spent most mornings and afternoons simply holding his hand or letting him lean his head on my shoulder. As the days progressed, I found myself verbally speaking less and less when I was around Ethan. I quit trying to fill the silence with my own form of communication. Instead, I allowed myself to adopt Ethan’s communication of a wide smile and a gentle touch.

During my time spent with Ethan, he gave me more than I could ever hope to give him. He taught me that all of us want to be understood, regardless of the means we have to convey ourselves. We all have a deep yearning for compassion and community that can only be found in the presence of others. It is what connects us all on a much deeper level than speech can. It is what gives our lives meaning. It is what makes us human.

Hannah Mullally
Class of 2016
College of Arts & Sciences
SBSJT 2014 Trip Coordinator

 

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.

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