Messages Home: What we talk about when we can’t talk about ‘it’

October 20, 2010 by

Loretta Jasper, csj

Since January 2009, Sister Loretta Jasper has been serving as a family counselor under a program ­designed and funded by the U.S. government. She is now in her second year working with the children of military personnel at a Midwest Army base. To protect the confidentiality of the people she works with, she does not identify her location or any individuals. This is one of her “messages home” about her work.

We don’t talk about it anymore.

It affects many of the kids in the school where I work every day; it touches the teachers and staff who face many of the same issues. It is, in fact, my reason for being there.

But we don’t talk about it.

Instead, the top administrator at the school where I have worked for the past year believes that by not talking about it, everyone can just focus on academics and the students will thrive and achieve.

It makes my job — as a family counselor here to support and assist the children of military personnel who have served or are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — a challenge, to say the least.

But it — deployment, or upcoming deployment or just completed deployment — is no longer allowed as a discussion topic at my school.

So what about the kiddo who continues to wiggle and jiggle through the day, and gets in trouble for that?  Then there is the kiddo who is called to task for not listening or not following directions?  Or, the child who moves into an immediate rant when not selected for playing the drum in music, or being first in line.  Indicators of the effects of it include tardiness, fatigue, irritability, tearfulness, sadness, forgotten assignments, having no coat, being unkempt, and on and on…

The kids, of course, aren’t the only ones affected in a town that butts up against a military base. Many of the staff and teachers are spouses of active-duty soldiers who are deploying, deployed or returning from deployment. The effects of it they show include fatigue, stress, physical illnesses, depression and anxiety, to name a few.

And then there are those among us who know exactly what it is all about:  Retired military and their spouses among the staff and teachers who know from their own experience about the broader effects of this long war of multiple deployments, with physical or emotional damage to the soldier and physical, social and psychological impacts on the whole family.

These retirees are among the most concerned about the untended it.

So how do I create an opportunity to engage the heart in the midst of this line-up of challenges?

ACATAMIENTO: the vibrant zeal of the Sisters of St. Joseph!  I wait; I remain present and visible to each teacher, staff member and child. I wait for the invitation to engage and to interact beyond the hello, the hug, the compliment, the encouragement to move into the concerns related to the wiggles, the inattentiveness, the rants, the tardiness, and the stressors of the job.  When that door opens a little wider, then I am able to support and assist in mending the injuries of the heart and hearth.  The it then becomes a tangible topic of conversation.

How do I wait?  With patience and relationship building!

Each day I am present to each child who passes by me in the school lunch line. Each day I tie a gazillion shoes laces.  I help individual children learn sounds, letters, numbers or patterns; I cheer on a child’s choice of library book; and I model behavior asked of the teacher.  My presence and visibility to a teacher, paraprofessional and teacher aide who is over-stressed with job expectations (and daily life!) seems to be soothing for that person.

Days come and go with no mention of it.  What I do know is that the moment I miss a music class, or lunch, or reading time, I hear about it from the teacher, the aide or the child. I was absent (and missed!).

The dear neighbor has many faces, and there are many ways to serve. My role in this particular school remains: presence, visibility, and as I am invited.

What does Father Jean Pierre Medaille have to say about this in our Maxims?

Forgive all injuries and, to arrive at a greater perfection of Christian charity, gladly please as far as possible those who offend you and who displease you the most.  Do not be content at welcoming opportunities to serve when they arise; carefully and promptly seek them out yourself in order to imitate more perfectly your heavenly Creator. (MP I, p. 11)


5 Responses to “Messages Home: What we talk about when we can’t talk about ‘it’”

  1. Jody Morrison on November 10th, 2010 7:16 pm

    Sister Loretta,
    Keep working hard for the Lord. You are blessed in more ways than you know!

  2. Anne M. Reinert on November 6th, 2010 7:41 pm

    It seems like “it” takes a life of its own, blessings as you continue to minister to and for the many you touch daily. Blessings S.Anne

  3. Lorren Harbin (Agregee candidate) on November 3rd, 2010 9:05 pm

    Thank you Sister Loretta for this insight into your current work. I can see how needed your patience and understanding is and how important you are to the children, staff, etc.. As an agregee candidate studying and learning about the Sisters of St. Joseph and the dear neighbor, I made several connections and gathered some clarification as to how the maxims connect to the work you are doing. Your sharing of your experiences came at the perfect moment today and really touched me. It sounds like you are truly the warm heart in this school.


  4. Carm Thibault on November 3rd, 2010 4:11 pm

    Thanks, Loretta, for your sharing here. Interesting that kids are not to speak of their experience – so there you are and that is good. Blessings!

  5. Elizabeth Miller (Betsy Gasperich) on October 29th, 2010 6:55 pm

    Sister Loretta,
    What you are doing is wonderful and so beautiful. Wow, you are making an impact on kids very deeply and won’t even know the half of the “GOOD” that you are doing…..Keep on going and keep on keeping on….
    Love to you always….sent with hugs and blessings, dear friend!

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