Instruments of God’s peace
St. Isidore/KSU youth spend spring break at Ronald McDonald House
By SHELBY DANIELSEN
Special to the Register
Editor’s Note: Shelby is a junior at Kansas State University.
Between going down slides, creating hamburgers out of play-dough, piecing together crafts and playing the Toy Story memory game, I ultimately gained a newfound respect for my mother.
“As much fun as that was, children are exhausting; I don’t know how she did it with four!” I thought to myself.
While volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house in Omaha, Nebraska as a part of St. Isidore’s spring break mission trip, I found myself growing humble among the children that surrounded me. One moment they are running around outside and climbing up jungle gyms, and the next, they are beside me at dinner, replacing their toys with feeding tubes and oxygen tanks, yet their enthusiasm for life remained.
As I scanned the room, I noticed that every family with a hospitalized child was bearing a smile. I could feel God’s presence in the room. They were all filled with faith, hope and love in a more extraordinary way than I had ever experienced. My pitiful concerns about homework crumbled. This was a house of unity, overwhelming with support and encouragement.
A Saudi Arabian father traveling back and forth between countries in order to give his daughter the proper care, with a wife and three kids still back home.
A teenage girl arriving for her first night in order to treat a brain infection, with her senior prom looming in the next weekend.
A three-year-old girl sitting next to me, eating the same food I was eating, enjoying the same dessert, but lacking something. That something being her small intestine, which means she does not receive any of the nutrients or proteins that we do from food.
“I suddenly felt like I complain too much,” said Matt David, a junior in mechanical engineering and St. Isidore’s volunteer. “I felt inspired to disregard any difficulties I may have in my life for the sake of living to the fullest.”
A few days later, a girl in our volunteer group realized she had left her bracelet at the Ronald McDonald house. As we went back for the bracelet, one of the little girls came forward, drawing the bracelet from her pocket. She had been carrying it with her all along, not even knowing if we would return, just in the hopes of personally returning it and giving one last hug. Her happiness was contagious.
Throughout the week, our group, led by St. Isidore’s Campus Minister Maria O’Halloran, spent time scrubbing bathrooms, painting benches and cleaning out closets at the Hope Center for Kids.
We then worked in the food pantry at Sacred Heart Ministry Center. We painted, organized shelves, cooked meals, walked individuals back with their groceries to their cars or homes, handed out sack lunches, cleaned out the garage and sorted clothing items.
As our group split into two separate groups, we were each able to spend an evening working with Catholic Charities. With a mountain of folders to sort through and organize, we were able to accomplish our task while having the pleasure of getting to know the employees of Catholic Charities.
We were also given the opportunity to tour Boys Town, visit a nursing home, volunteer at a homeless shelter, and attend several Catholic churches throughout the Omaha area.
“One of the major realizations we had during this trip,” Campus Minister Maria O’Halloran said, “is that there are many kinds of poverty, and poverty is all around us – even in our own neighborhoods. One doesn’t have to travel far to find a need, and our trip to Omaha, which is just a few hours away, really illustrated this point for our group. After returning home, we hope that many of the students involved will choose to volunteer in their own communities.”
When our group gathered together for a final prayer service as our mission trip concluded, we felt the bittersweet mood fill the air. The service opportunity, the fellowship we found in each other, the faith that was deepened and the lives that were touched left us in awe of God’s miraculous work.
“I can’t say enough about how impressed I was by our students’ generous, willing, and positive attitudes throughout the entire trip,” says O’Halloran. “They are not only a joy to be with, but also an inspiration as they continue to shine the light of Christ so brightly into the lives of many through their service. This trip had a lasting impact on me, and I hope the same is true for all participants.”
In the end, we were the ones giving thanks – with every individual feeling that “lasting impact”. The poverty we had witnessed did not define the people of Omaha, Nebraska. For, we had encountered the kindest and most selfless people along our journey, who were rich in their faith and left us inspired to serve as they serve. With the utmost gratitude, we thank them for dedicating their lives to service. They are truly angels here on Earth, and we were lucky enough to serve beside them, being used by God as instruments of peace.
As Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, once said, “The work will continue, you see, whether I am there or not, because it is God’s work, not mine.”