Reflection, just that word was enough for me dread the evening hours during my first year as a PV Volunteer.  Who would have ever thought that twenty years later I would be singing its praises?  I joined the PV Volunteers to do service, to help others, to change the world; little did I know that the greatest change would occur in me.  Oh sure, as a PV Volunteer I can proudly say that I have had a positive impact on the lives of many, but as usual Katie LaCurrubba was right.  “We don’t come to evangelize,” Katie often said, “what we find is the experience evangelizes us.” When I think of my feelings about reflection, I once again go back to Katie’s words and think how true they are.

Nothing has had a bigger effect on my life than PV reflection.  Every night we gather, summer after summer, to reflect on our day and experiences. Every night we share our stories with each other and every night I hear something that moves me.  It is in the sharing that we are changed.  Sharing is difficult.  Allowing oneself to become vulnerable is not an easy thing.  It takes a great deal of trust to open oneself up and pour out one’s innermost feelings.  I am not good at it. I am a private person; I say that all the time.  I don’t always want to share want I am thinking, seeing, feeling.  I resisted reflection for a very long time.  I don’t even remember when my defenses began to slowly break down.  All I know is somewhere along the way it happened and I am most grateful.

Why am I grateful?  That answer is easy.  It is what I learned in reflection that I have carried with me all these years. We all experience pain, suffering, loss.  It is part of our life.  Like everyone, I have had my share of sorrow.  Years ago, I used to think I had to keep all the pain inside.  I didn’t trust others enough to share.  But after twenty years of sharing, twenty years of listening to others, twenty years of nightly reflection, I see what a change has happened in me.  The PV Volunteers have brought so many wonderful, caring people into my life.  I have long known that.  But what I think I have finally learned is the true beauty of reflection, in my PV life as well as my daily life. When a PV calls and ask how I am doing, I can answer honestly.  I can share my grief because I know that I can trust that friend to listen and not judge. I used to be so afraid of opening myself up to others, but reflection has taught me that it is in the sharing with others that we begin to heal and to grow.

Jennifer Wiley

Jennifer first began with the PVs in 1992. After serving in the summers and as a year long PV for two years, she was hired on staff in 1998 and today is the Co-Director of the program.