People have always asked me why I do the things I do; regarding my community service and social justice life. When I was a student and my service commitments weren't as extreme, I feel like people were just simply curious. And my answers were never really thought out. I would always explain that I just kind of stumbled upon it all. That I just trusted the path God had me on and that that is how I would end up doing community service and going on service trips. But now, since I've dedicated an entire year of my life to community service I get asked way more than before.
Now that community service is my life, I feel like I owe people, especially myself, a legitimate reason as to why I do what I do. Why am I doing this year of service? I've been reflecting on this since the beginning of my service year in August; and I finally feel like I can begin to answer this question.
I've always known that I wanted to help other people; and that if I really wanted to help them I needed to meet them, see them, and hear them. This is what I was taught as an undergrad, but something was always missing here. This is all motivation for helping people in the future. Why did I decide to do a year of service?
I recently got to hear Fr. Greg Boyle speak at a seminar and am currently reading his book Tattoos on the Heart; through his reflections and writing I am realizing that my faith has always been the missing component. I am realizing that not only do I have to meet, see, and hear the people I want to help, most importantly, I need to be the people I want to help.
Jesus says "That you may be one as the Father and I are one." A Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, explains that compassion in "its truest measure lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in them." Fr. Greg Boyle writes about this level of compassion. He reflects on what Petra and Jesus teach and states "They chose a oneness in kinship and a willingness to live in others' hearts. Jesus was not a man for others. He was one with others. There is a world of difference in that. Jesus didn't seek the rights of lepers. He touched the leper even before he got around to curing him. He didn't champion the cause of the outcast. He was the outcast. He didn't fight to improve conditions for the prisoner. He simply said, "I was in prison.""
So why am doing a year of service with VSC West? Through this program I am able to experience a year of living simply; and am able to be, along with my housemates, in solidarity with those struggling and who are marginalized. Through this program, and being placed at The Gubbio Project, I am able to meet, see, hear, and be my brothers and sisters suffering from the injustice of poverty.