Monday, November 17, 2014

My Growing Family

Cara Ugolino

My plane took off from New York at 6:50 PM, and I had 2 hours and 10 minutes left to try and process the changes that were about to take place in my life. To be honest, I couldn't help but wonder if I had completely lost my mind in deciding to move to the Midwest. July 11th was the day that I moved to Chicago to become a Franciscan Outreach Volunteer, and also the first day I had ever been to Chicago. I was so overwhelmed, that when Kristen, our Community Assistant picked me up at the airport, and asked me about a book that was just made into a movie filmed in Chicago, I said I had never read it, and I had actually read it the week prior. 

While I was scared about my move to the Marquard Center, I was also excited to be surrounded by a community of people with a common purpose to provide shelter, food and help in building a better life for our guests. While I expected to fully immerse myself into the relationships with the other twelve community members that I live with on the third floor of the soup kitchen, I did not expect to feel such strong connections with the guests that we serve on the first floor. I quickly realized that I am living among a community of way more than thirteen people.

When leaving NY, I thought I would no longer hear reminders about being safe and cautious of my surroundings, like I had listened to numerous times from my grandmother. However, I quickly realized that at the Marquard Center, I gained about 100 grandpas who continuously warn me about which neighborhoods to stay away from at night, and to have my guard up, even if I feel comfortable walking under bridges. While I often get frustrated with arguments that happen at dinner in the soup kitchen over who got the milk first, or when some of the ladies yell at me for not having enough shower time, it’s the smiles and conversations exchanged that make me feel at home here. It’s having a guest have tears in his eyes, while asking me if my coworker was okay because she seemed sad that day, and that same guest holding his heart while saying, “When you start talking to people, and get to know them, you start to feel it here (pointing at his heart) and you begin to notice when they are upset or not feeling like themselves.” Or having a guest sing to you, “You’ve got a friend in me.” Or seeing a guest tell her friend that she found a place to stay and a job, and seeing her friend’s reaction with the purest joy I have ever seen. Or simply talking to a guest about our mutual love for biscuits and gravy.

On my flight to Chicago, I never could have imagined how much my family would expand here at Franciscan Outreach.

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