Guest Column: What Sarah Whitman Learned from the Materially Poor

Until recently, Haddon Heights native and St. Rose of Lima parishioner Sarah Whitman worked for an international volunteer program provider called ProWorld Service Corps. ProWorld has sites in several countries throughout the world, and at each of their locations, a group of local staffers coordinate volunteer experiences for high school and college students hailing from the United States. The work that ProWorld does is chosen based on community input, sustainable outcomes, and the cultivation of global citizens.

Sarah’s work with ProWorld was mostly in sales, but during the past two summers, she served as a support staff member. Sarah spent the summer of 2011 in Cusco, Peru and the summer of 2012 in Punta Gorda, Belize. Typically, her tasks involved serving as an unofficial counselor for students volunteering onsite and serving as a liaison between ProWorld and the greater communities of Cusco and Punta Gorda. “My experiences helped me to better (not fully, but better) understand the many types of poverty (physical, mental, spiritual, financial…) that exist in the world, and the meaning of God’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves,” she writes. Sarah was kind enough to share a blog entry that she wrote while in Belize last summer.

To read more, visit her blogs at and You can contact her at whitmanse [at] gmail [dot] com.


Be Yourself!

June 13, 2012

In my reading today, I came across a quote by Catherine of Siena. She said, “If you are what you should be you will set the whole world on fire.” What an incredible idea…that, simply by being our most authentic selves, we can start a revolution! So many of us wonder whether our lives have purpose (and if they do, what that purpose is), but Catherine reminds us of our capacity to be extraordinary simply be being the best version of ourselves! Could it really be that simple?

I find that in my travels with ProWorld, I am given the opportunity to meet and befriend many extraordinary people, who often possess beautiful gifts and specialized knowledge. Sometimes, I find myself envying someone else’s passion for keeping our planet green, or someone’s ability to stay energetic for seemingly endless hours in tropical heat, or perhaps someone’s knowledge of healthcare and healing. It’s very easy to focus on what we lack, or where we’ve failed, but imagine the good that could come from using that time spent moping to instead hone and practice the gifts that we do possess.

Sometimes, I find it really hard to be the best version of myself. On a long, hot bus ride, for example, I might not be inclined to respond enthusiastically to a conversation started by the person sitting beside me. Yet for the small price of my enthusiastic response, I can fulfill Mother Teresa’s command to “let no one come to me without leaving happier.” What’s worth more? Being exhausted and crabby, or spreading love and joy?

Choosing to be my best self every moment of every day is obviously easier said than done, but if Catherine of Siena’s words are right, then I’m pretty sure it’s well worth the effort!


Therefore, dearest readers, I challenge y’all today to think about what your best version of yourself would look like. What would “Super You” do?  Which of your talents are underutilized?  I often think about how funny it is that some people aspire to be dentists. In my mind, being a dentist would be the worst! Spending all day looking into peoples’ mouths and prodding their gums and smelling their breath? No gracias. And yet there are people who find dentistry fascinating and are excited to help make beautiful smiles, and I’m glad that they exist for the sake of the world’s teeth! What a riot, that both the aspiring dentist and I come from the same beginnings and yet offer such different takes on the world. We exist in beautiful, beautiful diversity, and I think that it is our uniqueness that really makes Catherine of Sienna’s words sing to me. If we all become “what we should be,” nothing will stop us from rocking the world!


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