Monday, July 28, 2014



Emily on our End-of-Year Retreat
Hardwood floors.  "I'm a veteran!" Gas included.  "How you gonna tell me I can't eat here?!" Walking distance from public transportation.  "I served my country and this is how you treat me?!" August 1st move in.

As I stand behind the podium in the entrance of the Marquard Center, I watch Thomas* stumble through the doorway, asking for a numbered ticket granting him access to the dining room.  Catching him slur and smelling the alcohol falling from his breath, I informed him he was too drunk to eat here tonight and we would provide him with a sack dinner.  As I returned to my apartment search, I was surrounded by his screams.  I was surrounded by just how unfair it all was.  Why is he homeless, while I get to move on from this place and move into a physical home of my own?

2013-14 Franciscan Outreach Volunteers
As my year with Franciscan Outreach Volunteers comes to close, I can't help by expect my interactions with guests to cleanly wrap up with a bow tied on top.  How perfect would it be if by the time I leave, all my favorite guests simultaneously got housing?  I could pass through the same doors Thomas did, sigh with relief, one last look behind me, and walk into the sunset.  But that's not how it is.  I'll walk out the doors, get on my brand new bike, and ride on to my new apartment.  As I reflect on the last 12 months and countless meals I've served, it seems as though the bellies I've filled have left me filled with guilt.

How do I walk out the doors and carry this with me?  How do I be grateful without feeling guilty?  Almost one year into this work and I still teeter between numbness and hopelessness.  In attempts to walk in solidarity with my brothers and sisters, I have become massively uncomfortable.  This is what I now share with them.  While our discomforts will never be the same kind or level of intensity, I now have an acute awareness of injustice.  It creeps up when I walk home after college orientation, distraught by my future 8:15 mornings and Saturday classes, and pass a man asleep on the bench while another tries to fix a rusted child's bicycle.  It clamps the back of my neck when I am seated outdoors at a restaurant and the guest who I recently learned was a victim of domestic violence walks by.  Or when I am in a heated building.  Or sleep in a bed.
Ladies on the End-of-Year Retreat

We should never be comfortable with the way the world is; the inequality, the suffering, the indifference. And while this could easily morph into a beautiful and heart felt call to action, I've spent the last year in action and am left exhausted.  I've felt almost every emotion on the spectrum of human capacity.  I cheered in joy when Aaron* came in a suit one evening after a job interview.  I cried in the arms of my fellow volunteers after Cele* confronted the man who raped her as I sat consoling her.  I fearfully scored Danny* due to his drunken harassment.  My eyes and heart have been opened by every interaction and emotion, and I will never be able to turn away from the realities of this world.  And while my work here has an expiration date, my memories, new found insight, and discomfort never will.  And that's how it should be.

*Names changed

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