In Modern Spiritual Masters, you are reading the teachings of those who have dedicated their lives to serving others… Modern day “saints” and role models. And in your daily LSI experience, no doubt, you are meeting and getting to work with other saints, role models, and inspirational people of all sorts. Reflect on one person you have met through your LSI experience – a supervisor, teacher, student, client, child, Brother, community member, etc. – and write about how they have impacted you and/or have inspired you in some way. 

Melissa – Yangon, Myanmar

To answer this question with one individual is an impossible feat. It is way too hard to choose just one person out of the dozens of people we were blessed to spend time with everyday. Every single person from the teachers, to Brothers, to students and even people I passed by walking on the street have touched my heart. I can’t narrow it down to one; instead, the people of Myanmar are truly “one” of a kind. They are the most giving, loving, friendly, hardworking, devoted, kind, and genuine people. Despite not having much, they make the most of what they have, take joy in the simple things, form close connections with everyone and have a positive outlook about the present and the future.

We arrived to Myanmar thinking we would be teaching students, but they taught us more than we could ever teach them. You can always look in a dictionary for the definition of a word or search online about the basics of accounting, but you can’t study how to be a genuine person- that comes from the heart. Everyone has inspired me to live life to the fullest, connect with those around me and to be my most authentic self.

Nick – Bacolod City, Philippines

I think that the most inspirational person I have met on this service trip is Brother Dan Fenton. He is a humble and wise man who has dedicated himself to aiding the poor in every assignment he has held as a Lasallian Brother. His is so humble that if I told him this he would simply shrug it off and say he only does it for personal enjoyment. However,  he inspires the desire to serve and live the Gospel. His stories about his experience at Bahay Pag-Asa in Bacalod City, Phillipines are a testament to his generosity, courage, compassion, and kindness. Not only do I look up to him but so do the other volunteers, staff, donors, and most importantly the children at the center.
As I reflect on my own experiences throughout life including this LSI experience, I realize that I should strive to live out the Gospel just as Brother Dan does. It is not an easy task, as my group and I have learned on this trip. Outsiders looking in may tell you they your service is in vain and to give up. This is because they do not have the compassion and humility that is required to serve others in need. It is hard for most people including myself to deal with these negative views when we are around our own peers because we do not want to be outcast for doing the unpopular thing. The challenge is to brush off the people that give us a hard time and have faith in ourselves and in God. Brother Dan exhibits the perfect approach to the challenge by bringing humor and joy into the situation.
I hope to follow in Brother Dan’s footsteps as I continue my own journey in living the Gospel.

Lukas – San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Although I have met several inspirational, loving, and overall pretty impressive people, the first person I thought of when reading this prompt was our volunteer coordinator, Cale. On our first weekend here, we found out she was only 23, something that I still find hard to believe despite being in my fourth week here. The reason why here age is so surprising to me is that she acts so mature and holds herself in a way that would never indicate she’s only a couple months older than I am. Beside from being the volunteer coordinator for the beautiful and amazing Casa de los Angeles, she is a friend to all of us and a mom to the many kids in the daycare.
I think what I find most inspirational about Cale is the fact that she has really just gone for it in life. Despite being only 23, she has held a pivotal position at Casa, has achieved fluency in Spanish, and decided to finish most of her college education in Mexico City even though she began college in her native Australia. That’s all so impressive to me because it just shows that there are so many potential paths to take in life and that while American culture seems to encourage, if not forcibly place most of us on a track through school, then college, and on to a 9-5 job to pay for a house and kids (and there is nothing wrong with this route), that doesn’t have to be the case. Cale has shown all of us volunteers that it is possible to be highly successful despite not taking the beaten path. Taking the less beaten path is quite a difficult and brave thing to do, and while I have fantasized about taking that route, I have yet to go that way.
She also has shown many of us how caring she can be towards these wonderful children. She doesn’t withhold any love when interacting with them and it is clear from their smiling faces and body language that they love her just the same. Over the course of my time here, I have really worked on adopting that same unconditionally loving attitude towards not only these kids, but my fellow volunteers and to my family and friends when I return home.
While I have learned a lot from Cale, I have also learned so much from Mexican culture, or what I have experienced of it. It’s a lot slower than in the United States. It’s more about being with people than doing things on a regimented schedule. I was fortunate enough to spend time with both Sarah’s and Humberto’s families and they both made me feel like a son (despite the language barrier), I felt truly loved and accepted by them. I think that unconditional love seems to be a pretty common trait here from what I have experienced and I certainly think everyone would be a little better off taking a note out of that book.

Lindsay – Nyeri, Kenya

I truly believe that everything happens for the reason, especially the people who you meet in life despite how long they are there, they are meant to be in your life for that long. Every person regardless of how positive or negative the impact is, they bring you closer to yourself and your past. Many of the boys I have met and created relationships with has truly changed and impacted my life and I cannot see my life without them in it whether it is in person or catching up over social media. It is hard to choose one person who has inspired me because all the boys have, especially the three juniors we spoke to in a group. However I will share about Kevin who is a junior graduating this year is one of the boys who has truly brought out the fire in my soul and impacted the rest of my trip, my outlook with the juniors.

The first time I met Kevin I was sitting in on his class for the day. He originally sat next to me but he ended up switching seats with Morgan who knew me longer. One of the other boys Jimmy told me he was shy, but I had a feeling he was not, and I was right. He is the complete opposite. Later that day on the 20th of January, we all had the opportunity to have a discussion with three of the junior boys and three of the secondary boys to listen to their stories. I originally thought this would be a great experience to get to know behind some of the boy’s walls, but I did not expect to have my life, my perspective change and the fire in me to come out. He told us about his life before Saint Mary’s Secondary Boys School. I could not believe how positive and selfless he is despite what he has gone through with the loss of his parents, slaughtering of family members, working hard to get money and finally being able to go to school. He is now the school president, teacher of karate and has such a pure spirit. One of the things he said that truly stuck to my heart was “I may not seem to talk as much, I may even seem shy. But I watch how you interact with the other boys when I see you at the basketball court and just around campus and I can see the pure kindness and genuine.” “I don’t see you as you are. You cannot help me to give me money, but you can talk to me and as a result, I suffer from nothing.” Those two states he shared hit me directly in my heart and gave me goose bumps. I felt as if a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Before I was truly into interacting, being present, listening and being open with the boys but a part of me was not fully there, I was unconsciously hurt about maybe some of the boys not liking me, giving me a hard time but after what he said my eyes and my heart was purely open. These boys notice all the little things you do, watch you carefully, and pick up on vibes and emotion. If he sees how we interact with others and that makes a huge impact on him then he is not the only one. It is vital to be fully there for these boys, fully willingly to give these boys love and compassion because they are not dumb, they can tell if you are truly into it. The next morning waking up the boys at 5 in the morning was completely different. It felt as if everything were lighter I was more energetic more open more truly there and the boys saw it. A few of them who never smiled at me and would give me attitude and not the time of day shook my hand and even smiled at me. Everything changed after that, my heart, my mind, and my soul was there with these boys giving them what they need which is a listener and someone who really cares. Before I didn’t realize how much else silence and visually can have an impact, I didn’t realize before how much of an impact just our presence and warmth is just being there even if we do not have a chance to talk to each of the 800 boys. It is reassuring that even if I may not be aware that I am having an impact I am, and the impact these boys, the brothers have on me is incredible.

Who would have thought an hour conversation would change your perspective on life, on others, on yourself. It was truly an honor to have that opportunity to speak with them. This is one of those special moments in life they you will always look back to in order to bring back pure joy, inspiration, and the memories you will never forget. I am not someone who truly believed in faith or knew what the meaning was or how faith played out in peoples lives. I knew faith is different for everyone and has different impacts but I never truly experienced or knew what faith meant to me. But Kevin along with the other boys I have spoken to have truly brought out my faith, the faith in the boys who have been through situations that are unbearable to believe happened, the faith in the Brothers that are providing education, community, encouragement to the boys, faith in myself that I can have an impact, the faith that the boys gave me, faith that we are all one, we are all human.

Phillip – Nyeri, Kenya

Every time I interact with de la Salle Christian Brothers, I am constantly amazed at their level of devotion and dedication to educating and improving the lives and conditions of the poor.  From our first day in Kenya, Brother Francis has treated us as if we were part of his own family.  He watches over us like a father watches over his kids.  I love the level of enthusiasm that he exudes whenever we are in his presence.  In the United States, it is so common for individuals to find  connection with a de la Salle facility/institution.  Over these past four years, the Brothers have always welcomed me with open arms, especially as a student studying at a Lasallian school.  This connection is worldwide, and Brother Francis has made us feel as if we were at home, regardless of our country of origin.  From the moment we arrived in Nyeri, Brother Francis told us that we should treat the school like our own home, as though all of the Brothers and students are new members of our own family.  To further my admiration for this man, I love the way that he will forever be working alongside these boys who need his love, care, and guidance.  AS we walked into town this afternoon, he had told me a story about a girl he knew whose mother had just passed away–he was very concerned about her future.  The way that he cares for others, people who have no blood relation to him, is certainly astounding.  Friendships and relationship are never forced–his calm demeanor makes everything come so naturally.  His job never ends for he is constantly working to make a better environment for all of these boys.  As a Lasallian, Francis embodies all five core principles, something that I hope to achieve one day.  While I know I will miss his company once we return to the states, I know that this man will forever remain in our hearts and minds, now knowing what a true and compassionate human being in this world looks like.

Forrest – Dominican Republic

While in the Dominican Republic I have been introduced to so many inspirational people that is almost hard to choose just one person to talk about. However, one person did stand just slightly more than the rest. In order to explain how impactful this person has been, a little back store is required.

In the Dominican Republic, baseball is probably the most popular sport and a lot of kids strive to eventually play in the United States in Major League Baseball. However, since many of the children are victims to poverty, it can be extremely difficult task. Also with the poor education system many of these children have a very difficult time going to college in the United States. One of the most common ways for the children to attempt to play professional baseball is through clinics. However, these clinics are not like the ones in the United States. What happens in the Dominican is that a “scout” will approach the child and his family and claim that the only way to make it to the professional league in the United States is through his clinic. The scout then pays the parents roughly $100 American dollars and takes the child away. The child will then practice 2-3 times a day for 7 days a week. Since the practices are long and hard, the child almost drops out of school at the age of 12-14. The scout then injects the child with steroids and continues to do so for a few years. The thing about steroids is that it lasts in your system for 18 months, so 18 months before the child is allowed to talk to real scouts from the United States the child will stop taking steroids. However, only about 10% of the children that go through this process make it to a trail in America. The rest are left to fend for themselves without an education.

Fred O’Brien has to be the most inspirational person that I have met in the Dominican Republic because he started his own baseball clinic. His clinic is nothing like the common clinic in the Dominican. He wants children to strive way from drugs and he forces them to stay in school if the children want to stay in his clinic. The most inspirational part about his clinic is that they have religious sermon every day before practice for 20-30 minutes. So, not only are the children in safer place but they get introduced to God and the grace that he brings. Seeing the children light up when they heard the sermons was really touching and it shows that God is speaking to these 150 kids through Fred. Fred has dedicated so much time and effort into these children and most importantly he is keeping them safe and in school. To me, this is why Fred was really inspirational because since I am an athlete I can relate to these kids and their desire to play their sport at the next level. My thoughts and prayers are with Fred as he continues fighting for these kids and giving them a real chance to play professional baseball while having the children maintain their education.