Mar 24 2018

Being present for others

Remembering lessons learned from co-founder Bob Hentzen

Bob Hentzen entertains a group of children on a January 2013 awareness trip to Guatemala.


By Paco Wertin, church relations director for Unbound

It’s been a while now, Roberto, since you’ve been gone, and every time your birthday comes up, we remember you and give thanks for the gift you were and continue to be for us all here at Unbound.

This sentiment echoes in my heart as March 29 approaches.

Bob Hentzen, co-founder of Unbound, was our teacher. It was in his bones. He joined the Christian Brothers and taught school in the United States, in Guatemala and in Colombia. Then something profound happened. Bob fell in love with the people he served and became their student, learning from them and opening his heart to the power of their love.

My experience of Bob teaching is that he led us into the hearts of the families we serve, where we discover that in walking together we forge a path out of poverty, theirs and ours. There is a connection to be made, a flow of love that can’t be stopped.

Bob was always excited whenever he visited Vanessa in Costa Rica. Vanessa, now grown, was the child my family sponsored for many years. Bob would bring back greetings and a photo from Vanessa to us and share her progress. He was grateful that he could help Vanessa and her sponsors grow in love.

Bob called us by our names. We existed for one another. We walked with one another, Vanessa in Costa Rica and my family in Kansas. He showed us that it’s possible to shorten the distance between us. He showed us that Vanessa is important, that we are important and that together we can accomplish much.

“We are a liberating force of love in our world,” Bob would say to the staff at Unbound. He was leading us to a deeper awareness of ourselves, always inviting us to a deeper authenticity. He put us in touch with the source of life within us and implored us to see, to feel this source of life in others and in our world. There was vulnerability in that, an openness that could disarm you. He made it a way of life.

“Check your knots” was another of Bob’s famous phrases. He learned that one from his wilderness days, rappelling off cliffs. One climber would check the knots of the other, just to be sure, trusting one another with their lives. So we check our knots. We “embrace the hassle,” acknowledging that there’s a lot of hard work to be done and we need to get to it.

For Bob, it was a “shared struggle” and “balanced austerity” that kept us on the path. He wanted us to understand that we are in this together and we should want to share the abundance that we have received. In the giving we open up a space to receive from the other.

In his encyclical letter, Laudato Si, Pope Francis seemed to echo this concept:

“We are speaking of an attitude of the heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full. Jesus taught us this attitude when he invited us to contemplate the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, or when seeing the rich young man and knowing his restlessness, ‘he looked at him with love’ (Mk 10:21). He was completely present to everyone and to everything. …”

For Roberto, at the end of the day it was all about how the children, the elders and their families are doing. This is how we measure progress on the journey. Bob was invited into the hearts of the families we serve and insisted we come along. With the Southern Cross overhead, his long legs took him south on walks spanning thousands of miles while others were heading north in search of a better life.
And he wanted all of us, whether from the north or the south, to be formed, guided and energized by the power to love.

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Roberto!

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