Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Contact not Concepts

After reading Kolvenbach’s ”The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice,” I traveled back to my senior year of high school. As I dove into my memories, I began to recall working hard in school with hopes I would get into a good college, which would eventually get me a good job. In high school I was constantly striving to be the best. For years, I fell victim to what Kolvenbach beautifully describes as “survival of the fittest” (34). However, it wasn’t until I embarked on my journey as a Loyola student that I began to understand what really mattered. Although I’ve worked hard the past three years at Loyola, I know now that it is not the grades that have changed me as a person. Years from now I will not remember what grade I got on my Scheye paper or whether or not I finished my semester off with above a 3.5. Instead, as I look back on my years spent at this Jesuit University I will remember, “letting the gritty reality of this world” into my life (35). I will remember experiences of service such as EBLO and Refugee Youth Project, which have forever changed me. After all, as Kolvenbach writes, it is experiences of “contact” rather than “concepts” which can help us all become better people (34).

During my time spent at both EBLO and Refugee project, I served as a mentor for young children. When I began my service at both sites, I considered myself a “volunteer.” However, at the end of my time spent with these children, I realized that I learned more from them than they learned from me. Every week, I would get to know the students on a personal level. As they shared with me their back-stories along with tales of the obstacles such as racism, poverty and violence they have faced and continue to face every day, I started to see the world from a whole new perspective, one a textbook could never teach.

For so long I was consumed with my own life and my own future that I did not realize the injustices within our world right now. As Kolvenbach writes, “injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem, and its solution requires a spiritual conversion of each one’s heart” (33). Although I have always considered myself a Catholic, I never felt as in touch with God as I did the two semesters I spent at EBLO and Refugee Youth Project. It’s been a year since I worked with those students, yet I still remember their faces, their names, and the stories they shared with me. I may not be able to tell you what I learned in Psychology freshman year, but I can tell you the hardships Turkish refugees face. Kolvenbach makes a strong point when he writes, “When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change” (34). If every one makes the choice to serve, to learn, and to experience with others, we may finally arrive at a more “just and humane society” (32).

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