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Archive for July, 2010

>Last day

>My stomach hurts.

I can’t tell if its the 2 cups of coffee I’ve had, the heat, the 5 day old yogurt I ate for breakfast (don’t judge) or the fact it’s my last day working as a Jesuit Volunteer.
In 24 hours I will be on the road, heading away from my 2 years as a JV.
Remember the scene in the Poisonwood Bible where the girls drag themselves out of the jungle? That’s a little how I feel right now. Exhausted.
The last few weeks have been incredibly busy. We have had to clean the entire house in preparation for the new JVs, visitors, work, paperwork, financial reports, more cleaning, packing, etc. I feel like I haven’t sat down in weeks.
Oh yeah, and I think I’m supposed to be planning a wedding or something.
It’s impossible to say what these two years have meant to me. I remember another part of the Poisonwood Bible when one of the girls talks about how after you feel a true hunger of the body, you can never fully relate to people who haven’t. Now, we’ve had some meager meals,but have never gone hungry. But I understand the sentiment of that. JVC will change you, ruin you, forever. I don’t know who I would have been without JVC, but I am know I am definitely a different person than I would have otherwise.
Before this past year, I didn’t know any murders or anyone who had been murdered. Now I do.
Before this year, I had never eaten antelope, elk, or venison. Still have yet to try bear.
Before JVC, I had never had the confidence to confront people. Now I believe I do, and that relationships that mean something to you deserve honesty.
Before JVC, I had never been to a Jesuit parish, done an Examen, or taken part in a smudging. Now I find these all beautiful spiritual practices.
Before JVC, I hadn’t met the man I would marry. (Had to thrown that one in there!)
Now I think about the four values, spirituality, community, social justice, and simplicity, every day. I am slower in my walk, and more reflective about my decisions. I see that everything I do has a consequence which I can try to nudge into a more honorable direction. Every action can be a spiritual one, from washing the dishes to reading an illiterate client his mail. I have grown closer to God in these years, I know, but I don’t think I will fully realize the changes that have occurred for weeks, months, or even years from now.
I am grateful for this journey I have been on. It hasn’t been easy, far from it, but it has been worthwhile.
So 3 more hours of working as a JV. I am a little nervous about the future. Being a JV has been my identity for so long, I don’t know what FJV life will be like. But for the time, I am going to focus on the present and bask in what an incredible 2 years this has been.

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>I failed.

>Obviously I overestimated how much time I would have over the next few days to write. I’ve barely sat down for 2 weeks. Cleaning, packing, cleaning, working, cleaning, errands, and did I mention cleaning?

But anyway – congrats to the two Ashland JVs who finished the half marathon in Missoula this weekend! It was inspirational how you managed to train while balancing JVC. It was great seeing all of you ladies. Blessings on the next journey in your life!

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>I thought I’d continue with yesterday’s post and write a little more about what its like to work at a homeless shelter.

I have never ceased to be amazed at the breadth of issues we face here. Domestic violence, mental illness, child protective services, housing, Social Security, unemployment, food stamps, job searching, resume building, obtaining a GED. We deal with perpetrators and victims, child abusers and children.
The issue of homelessness extends far beyond a lack of housing, or a lack of a job. And our services don’t extend much beyond being a safe place to be. We offer coffee, computers to print out a job application or to build a resume, a dry place to store your bags. A TV to watch movies or the news on. Sometimes we have donated clothes. Couches to sleep on if you’ve spent your entire night walking around town. We have a bathroom.
We provide GED pre-testing, but not really a place to study.
We have phones that you can call the domestic violence crisis line, but we don’t have a secure women’s shelter. (Not that all victims of DV are women, but a separate shelter would help).
We have computers to print out job applications, but not bus tickets so that you can get to the job.
We will have donations of socks, gloves, and hats in December, but not in March when it still gets below freezing every night.
Every day, we face inadequacy after inadequacy. Homelessness is a large problem without much of a solution. There are pieces we can chip away at, such as substance abuse or unemployment. But the problem of homelessness isn’t as simple as we like to make it out to be. It isn’t just a lack of housing.
Which can make working here pretty tough. Every day you see things that you wish you could forget, but you can’t. Constantly we face a lack of donations, a lack of supplies, a lack of resources for an ever expanding population.
It’s tough to describe what its like to spend day after day here. You get used to the smell of stale urine and beer, the ribald humor, calling 911. But there lies the rub. If you get to used to it, you become calloused and uncaring. But if you allow it to get to you, you remain vulnerable to the immensity of human suffering.
When we had our commissioning mass at orientation, our area director told us these words along these lines as he gave us our crosses “the weight of the world is not yours to bear alone, but you are not free to abandon it.”
It’s a tricky line to walk.

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>One week

>I have one more week of Jesuit Volunteering. (I’m leaving a little earlier, with some saved up vacation/overtime/holiday time/sick time). So I am going to try and post every day this week. And for today’s post, here is my good-bye letter I wrote for the Poverello’s newsletter:

At the Salcido Center, we have clients who will occasionally drop a quarter into a parking meter about to run out. We have clients who will walk around downtown looking for lost cell phones and bring them in to us so that we can find the owner.
I say this, because as a Jesuit Volunteer, we are asked to live out four values of social and environmental justice, spirituality, community, and simplicity, so that we can live in solidarity with those we are serving. But in my two years in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I have never really achieved “solidarity.” I may keep the heat down low in my house to save money, but I have never slept outside in the snow. I might bike to work, but I have never walked miles and miles to eat a meal. And I definitely have never spent the last quarter I have to make sure someone doesn’t get a parking ticket.
Working at the Salcido Center has not only exposed me to all of the difficulties of people who are homeless, but also the myriad of experiences of people who come here. I have met men and women from all walks of life and have been overwhelmed by the stories I have heard. Stories from smoke jumpers, teachers, survivors of domestic violence, people who have been hardened by years on the street, and people who are terrified to spend their first night at a shelter.
If I hadn’t worked at the Salcido, I would never have heard these stories, and never have seen not only the struggles, but the generosity of our clients. I have been truly to blessed to meet all the people I have had the pleasure to work with this year.

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>A few retreat pictures

>



Courtesy of house photographer, Jen C.

1. Bree and I at a tea house in Butte
2. Playing Mafia
3. Making s’mores (man, I love s’mores.)
4. Butte is Cutte!

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>Worthwhile

>
Things like this make it all worthwhile. A client gave me this note today.

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