Wednesday, November 23, 2016

All You Need Is Love

Emily Davis, a full-time volunteer from the 2015-2016 community, shares a special experience from her time in the Franciscan Outreach Volunteer Program and what she is up to now below. Emily spent one year serving at the Franciscan House of Mary and Joseph and still inspires us to this day!

“If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.”

 What a wise woman Mother Teresa was; someone we should all be looking to during this time of incredible division and hateful tension. One thing that I have learned in the last year is that belonging to one human family and having a responsibility for one another is an indisputable fact and the more we fight against it, the stronger the hate, dissension, and darkness grow. Often it seems best to ignore our belonging to one another because, quite honestly, it is easiest. Working a 12-hour overnight shift in an emergency shelter with a large population of women suffering from fairly debilitating mental illnesses is a grueling task, and there were many times that I thought it would get the best of me. Luckily though, it never did. If anything, it has taught me some invaluable lessons. 

On my last day at Franciscan House of Joseph and Mary, a lady I had grown particularly close to handed me a silver token with John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son”) written on it and said to me, “You need this now. It has protected me along this difficult journey, but I want to be sure now that you will be protected.” This woman – a woman who had chronic medical problems, was living in extreme poverty, surviving on the streets during the day, and finding a nighttime refuge at the Franciscan House of Mary and Joseph only recently – believed that I needed protection more than she did. She believed that even though I was a privileged, white woman living in the suburbs, I was her friend and it brought her great comfort to know that I was going to be safe. This woman gave me the greatest gifts imaginable: friendship and love. She reminded me that we belonged to one another and that our love for one another was truly what mattered. It did not matter that I had a place to call home and she did not. It did not matter that I was white and she was black. It did not matter that I was young and she was old. We were friends and in that moment, I felt so loved and I hope she did, too.

Serving now as a youth minister in an affluent suburb of Chicago, I am challenged every day by the teens I work with and the many divisions that work as barriers to them feeling loved. As we all know, many teens’ social lives are structured and defined by high school cliques and popularity. Many of them feel alienated from what is “cool” and those that are part of the “in crowd” feel an immense pressure to maintain the walls they have built around themselves to protect their popularity. However, they are then forced to keep up with someone else’s idea of who they should be, and do not feel accepted for who they truly are. They believe their uniqueness is negative because it prevents them from conforming, and that reaching out to someone different from themselves would leave them even more alone. What they don’t always realize is that it is in building those bridges that they will discover a greater sense of personal identity and the greatest form of friendship: a friendship that truly accepts them for who they are. Shout out to the wonderful ladies at Franciscan House, my incredible community, and the staff at Franciscan Outreach for providing me with the inspiration and example that I need to work with the teens!

Thus, I continue to utilize the tools that I learned through my year of service to guide the teens in building connections with one another, and to ignore some of the hateful language that only encourages deeper division; to no longer live in immense fear of each other. Overcoming that fear is the only way to create a greater sense of belonging, acceptance, and peace. Dorothy Day said, “Love casts out fear but we have to get over that fear in order to get close enough to love people.” Without this love, we will never heal. Brokenness and pain are inevitable and are part of being human. The only way to overcome brokenness, hatred and division is to build relationships with others, allowing their love to heal us. I don’t know about all of you, but I do not want to live in the pain and suffering. I need love. I hope that one day we all realize this and choose love.     

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