You know what we believe by what we do and where we walk. Nothing will tell the world about our individual or collective beliefs better than our actions. It is true of me. It is true of you. It is true of International Samaritan. The truth about who we are and the decisions we make was a point I recently discussed with the mother of a college student.
It was a Sunday evening not long ago when I received a phone call. I listened to the disconcerted mother asking me about the “value” of a mission trip her daughter was about to make. “Isn’t it better to serve your own city or country then to go off to Ethiopia?” the mother asked. She continued, “She already has great character. What will this do for a student who is already morally developed?”
I pointed out to this concerned mother that serving the poor in a developing country has value in our country because it creates goodwill between the two cultures. There is value for your daughter in that it generates empathy, compassion and a deeper understanding of abject poverty as shown by our research. According to the United Nations, our country simply does not have the severe and chronic poverty of garbage dump communities served by International Samaritan.
Then I responded to the mother’s observation that her daughter was “already morally developed”. First, I believe moral development can continue for life if we are open to growth and the opportunities are present. Values and moral development within institutions often have nothing to do with what they plaster on their websites or strategic plans. Institutions and individuals can be judged by how they behave. Second, when it comes to raising moral children, we need to be aware that actions can shape character. Karl Weisk, a developmental psychologist, asks parents and educators to reflect on important questions: How can I know who I am until I see what I do? How can I know what I value until I see where I walk?
That said, International Samaritan has a simple and clear mission. I am proud to say that you can see what we believe by what we do and where we walk. We ask you to join us.
In the Lord,
Father Don Vettese, S.J.