Tuesday, November 1, 2016

You Matter




Hi! My name is Cady Villarreal and I was a full-time volunteer at the Marquard Center from 2014-2015. Since my time in the Franciscan Outreach Volunteer Program, I moved to Prague, started graduate school, and have continued to tell my story and the stories of the individuals that I met in Chicago. You can get to know me a little bit more by reading about some of my thoughts and experiences while living and serving at a soup kitchen here:

I Want to Know Your Story





Fast forwarding to today my life may look a lot different, but I continue to be impacted by my experience in the Franciscan Outreach Volunteer Program. I wear a ring made out of a recycled spoon with the word “community” engraved on the inside that I bought at an art fair in Chicago the day that I moved out of the soup kitchen. I did not realize that it was engraved with a word that has an entirely different meaning to me these days until hours after, but it has become a lovely reminder of a year that had an incredible impact on me and ultimately changed the direction, literally and figuratively, of my life.

 

People do not always understand why I feel so positive about my experience overall in the Franciscan Outreach Volunteer Program when I talk about how hard it was at times and how much I struggle with things that I saw to this day. I do not know how to put it eloquently or in a way that does it justice, but I will attempt to explain it at it’s most basic level. That was my life for one year. ONE year. The experiences that I had, the people that I was exposed to, the heartbreaking things that I saw…some individuals have to endure those types of situations for years and years. That is their normal. So when I say that it was the best year of my life but also the hardest I mean it with every ounce of my being. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I would do it again and again and again.  Our actions and the types of organizations that we support impact our society much more than we often realize. Living intentionally and choosing to not remain ignorant to the injustices that surround us is not always easy, but it matters.


Having the opportunity to travel more since my service year has opened my eyes even more to individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds, yet continued to confirm that we are all connected on a deeper level and similar despite those differences. Fundamentally, we all need and crave similar things at our core. We all have beating hearts, need food and water to survive, and have dreams and passions whether we are aware or acknowledge them based on our distinct life situations or not. We might not understand particular choices that others make or their beliefs, but I think that expanding our knowledge and awareness through volunteerism can be incredibly enlightening. Volunteering full-time at the Marquard Center opened my eyes to injustices, opportunities, mental illnesses run rampant, the amount of love that I could have for a community that I had never previously been exposed to in an in-depth manner, how intertwined we all are, and that no matter what, I will always, always, always choose love.

I choose to have an open heart and meet others where they are at.

I choose to be kind and treat others with the respect that we all deserve.

I choose to welcome each and every individual that I encounter with the same kindness and hospitality that I would my family and close friends.

I choose to help others in any way that I can and continue to educate myself on the different injustices in our world and how I can help.

These are things that I had already known to be true to me before committing to a year of service, but their importance was consistently confirmed to me during my time at the Marquard Center. I truly believe that every single one of us can make an impact in our society. So, it is with an open heart that I invite you to learn more about the ways that you can get involved in your community, whether they are in areas that you have experience in or not. Maybe you are someone that has a ton of experience serving the homeless or maybe you are someone like I was and have never volunteered your time to an organization similar to Franciscan Outreach. Whether you are considering volunteering part-time, volunteering full-time, donating money, or sharing the work that Franciscan Outreach is doing with others, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. You have the potential to have an incredible impact on a group of individuals that I hold close to my heart and be equally, if not more, impacted as well. Getting out of your comfort zone is never easy, but I can assure you that it is worth it. 

 
If you would like to be in touch, do not hesitate to contact me at villarrealc1@student.lasalle.edu. I genuinely mean that—I would love to hear from you whether you are someone considering the Franciscan Outreach Volunteer Program and want to learn more about my personal experience, a past or present volunteer wanting to connect, or a follower of the work being done at Franciscan Outreach.


Take care,
Cady

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