Paying Close Attention to the Little Moments – Axtell, NE

My favorite Ignatian value has always been “Magis.” The first time I heard it I thought to myself, that is so me. I am always wanting more, whether that is experiences or meeting new people. This quality has never seemed negative to me. Most likely because it wasn’t material things that I was craving, It was always something much more noble sounding, something like “learner” or “curiosity for the world.” However, I have found that in my practice of living out magis, instead of searching for the more in front of me, I have found myself asking “what else?” I am never satisfied to find out the “more” in the here and now, but rather thinking there was something better, something “more” around the corner. This was one of my greatest challenges in Axtell, Nebraska, and I didn’t even know it.

I remember my second day in Axtell, Nebraska. We were staying at Bethphage Village, a community for the disabled. We split up our group and began to transport the members of the homes to their work sites. As soon as this was done, our “job” was simply to be there. Seemed easy enough to me, afterall I do love to talk. However, the community here was mostly nonverbal and, at least on that day, unresponsive. I felt a sense of panic because I was supposed to be a leader, what would it look like if I could not do what I was asking others to do? I even found myself being jealous of the others who found a person that I viewed as “better” than the person I was trying to converse with. “Why hadn’t I chosen that person?” I thought to myself.

After a long day, I comforted myself with the fact that I would be with new people the next day. And each day after that it seemed to get better. I was able to connect with the residents more and I felt like I had made friends. It was not until the end of the week that I realized that many of my new friends were no more verbal than the people I talked with on that first day. So, what changed?

During our stay in Axtell, we were fortunate to have several discussions with Pastor John, whose first words in his service on Sunday were, “Everyone is invited to the party.” I remember loving this idea and his joyful way of involving every member of the congregation, no matter their skill set. He not only voiced the invitation, but he acted it out in everything he did. At one point, he challenged our group to think of what our society would consider as successful or that would bring us greater happiness. We listed things such as more money, a better job, a bigger house, a home with a family. He then challenged us to think of what the community in Axtell would consider to be happiness. We said Logan not going to the doctor every day, Brian having someone hold his hand for a couple minutes, Cathy being able to put her arm through her coat. I don’t think that he wanted us to feel pity that these were the things that they considered successes, but rather to call into question what we view as happiness.

Over these past few weeks I have been asked about my trip, what changed for me? What were the big moments? And this was hard for me to answer. I did not have these big moments, nothing shouted out to me, Axtell is rather quiet. Again, I felt myself looking past my trip, searching for this “more,” not believing that I had found it.

There was something that my co-coordinator, Michael, said though that I kept coming back to. When I voiced my struggles during the week, he told me to remember that many of the stories we hear of trips are highlights, like a Snapchat Story. We hear of these moments of connection and beauty, but there are lots of moments in-between them. Hard ones, uncomfortable ones, ones of growth.

So, as I reflect again, I find myself focused on the quiet of Axtell, where big moments are silent, and the tiny ones make much more sound. A smile from Charlie is shouted from the roof tops and a hand held is deafening. I now wonder: How many things have I peered around, wondering what was next? How many small sounds have been unheard, or not listened to? I wonder this not only in my service, but in my day to day interactions. I have not changed overnight. I still consider myself a learner, and curious for the world, but I hope for what is in front of me. As I move through my last year at Creighton what I hear is Pastor John, “The Party is here and we are all invited.”

Emma Munger
Class of 2018

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