Saint Francis of Assisi said: “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” I remember the first time I saw this quote painted across the ceiling of a room when I was about 13 years old. Perhaps it had been there longer, but this was the first time I noticed it. I read the words, chuckled, and said “YES.” Not, “yes, I totally relate to and understand this,” but, “YES – Youth Equipped to Serve.”
I was raised in the church and by parents who consistently encouraged putting others before ourselves and ensuring everyone we met would leave us with more as a result of the interaction. The first time I understood what it meant to give of myself to everyone was when I saw the poverty wheel and was able to understand the multiple ways in which people were impoverished throughout our communities. While I knew this, it was still quite striking to fully understand the significance of experiencing poverty through multiple facets: social, spiritual, educational, health, environmental, and economic. YES helped to put this into perspective for me.
The work I do now is instrumental in being one of the areas in which I continue to bring the valuable lessons I’ve learned through YES to life in the “real world.” Working with college students with disabilities has been a blessing for me in and of itself. Universities are one of those areas of the world in which you can see each spoke of the poverty wheel in action all around you. As such, I typically see my role in each day as being a safe and comforting face for those that might need extra support and encouragement as they continue through their day.
The work I do each day is driven by my love and appreciation for the diversity in the world around me and for the joy it brings me to show kindness and compassion to each person I meet. If this does not explicitly connect to those lessons I have learned throughout my life, and particularly through the YES program, I don’t know what would. Now, every morning when I wake up and set my intentions for the day, I think of St. Francis. Jesus is always with me in my heart; why would I not be a vessel through which He can shine and bring hope and light to someone else’s day? Being involved with the YES ministry is another chapter, and thankfully a lifelong commitment, to a continued calling to love, serve, and share Jesus with those I meet.
-Morgan Sutton on bringing YES to the real world
Youth Equipped to Serve is a program of FOCUS North America that creates opportunities for youth to engage with the poverty of their city, equipping young people to become servant leaders in their own communities. Learn more on the YES program website: www.yesnorthamerica.org