The Values

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,

Nadia

IMG_2433.JPG

My inspiration 

Today I begin my journey as a JV. I am currently on my way to Logan airport, heading out for orientation. In about a week, I will begin my service at the Detroit Ctisto Rey High School, helping students train for their work study positions throughout the year (as well as staff workshops and meetings for new teachers and such). Part of me can’t believe I am going to start teaching, part of me feels like this is what I’ve been preparing to do for most of my life.

When I was younger, I didn’t want to follow in my parents footsteps and become a teacher; I wanted to become my own unique individual with a crazy career as a national geographic journalist or a Broadway star. I grew up helping in my m0ms elementary school classroom and watching my dad conduct hours of choir rehearsal. Sometimes these things where fun and entertaining, other times they were boring and tedious. It wasn’t until I got a little older (and dare I sa, a little wiser) to really appreciate these moments watching my parents do what they love. My mom clearly has a passion for teaching history and literature and I have never seen anyone more passionate about choral music than my father. 

The love that both my parents have for the subjects they teach makes them the types of teachers you want to listen to and you want to emulate in your own life.

So first and foremost, my parents have inspired me to work within the eduction system. They have taught my through words and action that education is of the utmost importance for making a difference within our society, our greater global community, and (most importantly) in the lives of every individual student.

I have also had many teachers throughout my life who have inspired me to be the best I can be and to live a compassionate, loving life. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Sandborn, ignited my love for writing and journaling. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Parker, helped my over come my shyness and at the same time embrace my quiet, introspective side. Both these amazing women taught me kindness and how to accept people as they are. 

In high school, I had a theology teacher who truly inspired my interest in the study of theology as well as an openness to my own faith. He helped me stick through my rough freshmen year of and because of this, I learned about the Jesuits and Ignatian spirituality. And here I am, starting my journey as a JV! 

These are just a few examples of the teachers who have inspired me and made a difference in my life. The truth is, all my teachers and professors have done this for me. So I would like to thank all my teachers and all those dedicated to the task of educating. I hope that I can take all I have learned from you and continue the work of inspiring and shaping the youth of our world. 

Wish me luck! 

Peace, 

Sarah 

So, where do we go from here?

Hello everyone! This is the blog where I will (hopefully) be keeping you all updated on my year serving as a Jesuit Volunteer.

Although there are a few months before I move to Detroit and begin the next big adventure in this crazy thing called ‘the real world’, I wanted to let people know where I’m at and why I have decided to joint the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

I learned about JVC when I was a freshmen attending a Jesuit high school. Going to a private, Catholic school was of absolutely no interest to me at the time, but in retrospect I have come to a place of immense gratitude for the year I spent at that school. There I learned the basics of Ignatian Spirituality, from the founding father Iggy  (St. Ignatius of Loyola) himself, to finding God in all things.

The Jesuit motto of Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, ‘for the greater glory of God’, is a motto that has really shaped my image of God and my relationship with Him. I grew up Catholic, but entering into high school my relationship with God was very unstable. In all honesty, I didn’t really care about Him. I believed in Him (most of the time) but forming a personal relationship with Him was not on the top of my to-do list. I was even angry at God for awhile because I did not want to go to a private school and being a teenager is hard; I blamed all my struggles on Him. In actuality, He was the one helping me keep my head above water when I felt like I was drowning in my own angst.

My theology class freshmen year, as well as the Catholic foundation of my school, taught me to see God in all things (especially in the hard stuff). Even though we all struggle, slowly I came to see that trusting in God and His love was the one thing I could always do.

I became fascinated by religion that year and I cultivate a specific fascination with the Catholicism of my childhood that I felt I had drifted away from. I learned that having an intense, personal relationship with God was entirely possible and wonderful. Ignatian Spirituality is very much based around finding God (the extraordinary) in our everyday, ordinary lives. I saw God in my teachers, in my family, the work I did, and in the beauty of the world that was all around me. I still try everyday to see the goodness in all these things, even when I am spending many miserable hours in the library just trying to graduate.

Throughout college, my love of God has continue to grow and has taken me many wonderful and unexpected places. I have learned about my own faith through the study of world religions and through becoming involved with campus ministry. I have meet people who have changed my life and I have made friends that will last long past graduation. My life isn’t always simple and good; I struggle with anxiety and  a desire to be perfect in all I do. I put a lot of pressure on myself in that regard and college is just a stressful and insane time, especially this close to graduation. But despite all this, I recognize that I live a very privileged and blessed life.

Last semester I took a ‘Critical Perspectives of Service’ course and we talked a lot about ‘privilege’ and what it means to us. I am privileged in that I live a comfortable life with a loving family and I have had the opportunity to gain a higher education. Now, it is easy to feel guilty about our privilege and the lives we live, while so many in the world suffer and struggle just to maintain a healthy standard of life. However, I feel that feeling ‘guilty’ will not achieve anything. Instead of feeling bad that I have things that others do not or expressing sympathy for the greater world, why not do something? Obviously, one person cannot change everything that is wrong with the world or improve the lives of all those who are suffering, but we have to start somewhere. There is a time and place for guilt and sympathy, but I would rather share with the world love and empathy when and where I can.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I have pure and simply fallen in love with God.  He has given me a beautiful life filled with His love and grace, and I want nothing more in my life than to love Him in return. Serving in His name and helping those in need is one way that I feel called to ‘return’ His love and to share it with as many people as I can. So that’s why I chose JVC and thank God they chose me!

I am nowhere near perfect and I am still very uncertain where I want to go in life and what I want to do. I am not always kind and I have my moments of frustration, anger, and depression. Through it all, I know I have God and the people He has placed in my life to lean on for support. Despite my imperfections and my sometimes cynical attitude, I wake up each day hoping and praying that I will be a better person than I was the day before. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. Either way, I try to keep God at the center of my life and to see His goodness in  most ordinary of places (try is the key word here!)

So, I am a month away from graduation and a few months away rom starting my service at the Detroit Cristo Rey High School. Where do I go from here? It feels like I am in an intense period of waiting: waiting for the next big step. In these moments of waiting, I believe God is preparing me for all that is to come. So, I will continue to let Him speak to my heart and be my strength through this last (and crazy) month of my undergraduate career. I will continue to live with His greater glory in mind. Each day I hope to see Him and grow closer to Him through all the papers, relationships, struggles, and emotions.

If you feel so inclined, please consider donating to my Send Me to Serve Campaign (link below!) and keep me in your prayers. I pray that you all can find God in all things and that He may be with you, where every you may be on life’s journey!

God is Good!

Sarah

https://jesuitvolunteers.myetap.org/fundraiser/smts2016/individual.do?participationRef=1141.0.500121765