As the Old St. Pat’s community enters into this exploration of “Life Without Borders,” I am finding myself more aware of the borders in my life, in my circle of friends, and in our world. There are a variety of borders, both mental and physical, that we are witness to in each of our lives. I have seen the borders of our country down on the South Texas/Mexico line. Those borders are aimed at keeping people out, at protecting those on the “inside,” and at drawing a line between countries. Those literal, physical borders get lots of attention; however, there are countless borders we face every day that aren’t as apparent.
This past July, my Aunt Patricia was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As my family and she navigate the challenges that are presented to her; radiation therapy, procedures to keep her comfortable, decisions about hospice, etc., I am in awe of the physical borders that have come up in her life. What once was a fairly active, healthy woman, has now become someone who must receive constant help because she is unable to take care of herself. From the bandages that remain on her legs because they are swollen, to the electric chairlift that gets her down the stairs, to her caregiver, Grace, who tends to her bathing, eating, medication, and comfort, I am reminded this is not a border she has asked for. It is a border that has been met with many tears and questions. It is a border many of us know too well, and have taken turns experiencing in our own life circles.
In this year of Life Without Borders,I challenge you to think about the borders in your own life; the ones that must be embraced and cared for, the ones that require you to lean into your faith for support, and the ones that seek to make you a better person.
For some, life’s borders have been given to us, such as in the case of my aunt. Others face borders that we have a little more control navigating. I recently attended on event for Chicago Coalition for the Homeless where I met a man around my age who shared his story with me. He had grown up on the West Side of Chicago with six siblings and a single mother who was not very present. In high school, he made the decision to tell his family he is homosexual, which prompted his mother to kick him out of the house. He was subsequently homeless for three years before finding a community in Chicago that accepted and nurtured him for who he is. He now represents the Coalition at speaking engagements, sharing his struggle of identity and poverty. What I noticed most about him, however, is that his struggle continues. It is another example of a border that challenges him to constantly reflect on how he wants to interact with the world. His story tells you about the borders in his life, both past and present. Those borders may always remain as he continues to seek his true identity. I believe many people are in that same boat of uncertainly, no matter the landscape of their border.
Sometimes a border is simply a challenge to oneself. This summer, after turning 29, I made a list of “30 Before 30,” thirty things I want to accomplish before my thirtieth birthday. Some of the tasks on my list such as “bike the lakefront,” or “throw a fancy dinner party” are easier to achieve. Other tasks such as “travel to Ireland,” or “run a 5K” will be tougher. Whether easy or hard, my list is about small borders I haven’t yet crossed in my life. Some are things I have always wanted to do, some are things I don’t know how I’m going to have the time/money/courage to do. My list is comprised of goals I feel will help me knock down the borders to living a fuller life. It is a challenge to myself, a set of my own personal borders to hurdle across.
Borders can be dark and scary; make no sense, and take away our freedom. Borders can be misunderstood; they can make us feel very alone in this world. Borders can also be a challenge we create ourselves; that help us to do more, be more, live more. In this year of Life Without Borders,I challenge you to think about the borders in your own life; the ones that must be embraced and cared for, the ones that require you to lean into your faith for support, and the ones that seek to make you a better person. Let’s explore them together, shall we?
Becky Terlep is Coordinator of Youth Ministry and Co-coordinator of College Ministry at Old St. Patrick’s. She is proud to have thus far accomplished ten of her “30 Before 30.”