This week marks the third week as a JV and my second week in Detroit. I feel like I’ve been here for months and I mean that in the best possible way. This has been one of the smoothest transitions (knock on wood) that I have experienced in my life. Not to say, of course, that things have been a simple.
My journey began with traveling to Indianapolis on my own, meeting about 80 strangers, being tossed into an intense and full week of orientation, moving in with 6 new people, moving to a new city with said people, and starting a new job (with a new curriculum). To say the least, there has been a lot of newness. With that comes a multitude of emotions ranging from terrified and anxious, to overjoyed and feeling at peace with the world.
Being an introvert (most of the time), orientation was a bit much for me: too many new people, too much new information, and too much time spent with these people for five days straight. However, looking on that week in retrospect, it was a good chance to get use to being bombarded with new environments, people, and situations. It was also a time to reflect on and learn about the four core values of JVC: Spirituality, Community, Social Justice, and Simple Living. Coming into JVC, I felt that I had a solid grasp on what living out these values would look like; I had no idea. At a glance, they may seem simple and easy to comprehend, but attempting tolive according to these values alongside my community members has been a challenging blessing in the past three weeks. And I can’t wait to see what my perspective on these values are in a months, 3 months, 6 months, and when I am finished with JVC next August.
I have been trying to think of what value has been the most challenging thus far to make the center of this post, but they are all challenging me in different ways. I’ve come to realize and appreciate that challenging isn’t necessarily a negative thing; it can be life giving and can push one into what JV’s would call a ‘brave space’. This space is one in which to listen, grow, and learn. This is also something I am trying to model and teach my students.
I thought that spirituality would be the ‘easiest’ value to incorporate into my daily life: finally I would have the time and space to focus more fully on my prayer life! So far: yeah, not so much. Although I am surrounded by a spiritual support system and have been participating in daily prayer at school, going to mass, and spirituality night, getting in touch with God feels like a challenge. Through the busyness of the last few weeks, I don’t find myself making time for personal prayer. Without that as a center to my life, I have found it difficultto see God in all things and invite Him into every aspect of my life.
Community life is a beautiful and messy thing; managing and organizing seven very different schedules is no easy task. This week, the homily at the Church we attended (Ss. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church in downtown Detroit) was about humility. Living with six other, differing personalities and world-views requires an immense amount of humility that I do not always posses or exemplify with grace. Living in community means compromising about how messy your living space will be. It means learning how to respectfully and (somewhat, I’m working on it) gracefully disagree with opposing views. It means discussing the use of electronics and other resources, such as water. It means learning how to compost and shop cheaply but also simply.
Cheap and simple are not the same thing and this is an on going discussion in our house; we are managing to stay within budget (especially with food) but we want to be more conscious of how much meat we eat and how and where out food/ products are made. My favorite part of simple living has been the lack of TV, internet, and other personal electronics. Without these things, especially internet and watching Netflix, we have been able to spend quality time together as a community. One of my favorite parts of the day is being able to sit in our living room and hardly say anything. We sit in each others presence as we knit or read and it is the perfect introverted way to spend time together. Our house must sound like a retirement community, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Social justice is the value that I don’t feel like I have as much experience with. I have volunteered and such, but my experiences have been very different than working and living within the community that I am serving. Mexicantown in Southwest Detroit is a growing and vibrant neighborhood, but it still faces the problem of violence, homelessness, and poverty. I see this everyday on the short walk from my house to the school I work at. I see it when I walk into the school chapel and see photos of three young adults who died while they were students at the school, two because of violence and one in a house fire. Detroit is a city that has faced many challenges, but I think that it is a terribly misunderstood city. The media ‘advertises’ the negative parts of the city, but glosses over the many wonderful organizations and people dedicated to making the city a better place through faith, serving the homeless, educating the youth, and implementing urban gardening.
I love the Detroit I have gotten to know in this short time. I am so grateful for the opportunity to live among the diversity. I have been enjoying teaching so far. Next week I will start my class with its’ new curriculum on my own for the first time. So I’ll let you know how that goes.But over all, the students have been wonderful and I see so much potential in their goals and futures. Wish me luck in the “D” and God Bless,