Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Service, Faith, and me on a summer day

According to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, promotion of justice and service of faith is essential to our society. As members in a Jesuit university and, in my case, a former student to a Jesuit high school in Cleveland, Ohio, justice needs to become intertwined into our being. The only way possible for true justice to be integrated into someone’s life is through immersion into a world in need of service and faith; educating oneself of the world around us; and love that transcends outside us and into action: a journey for solidarity.

When I was at Saint Ignatius High School, service was everywhere you went. You’d go up the stairs and see a flyer for volunteering at the Arrupe House, the community service center on campus. You would be in class and hear announcements talking about coming down for homework club, a tutoring program for the children around the neighborhood. When it was free period and you finally had time to “relax” and “contemplate”, the door for the stall had perfect reading material taped on saying “ARRUPE SUMMER PROGRAM APPLICATIONS DUE! COUNSELORS NEEDED!” When Kolvenbach states on pg 26 that service and faith cannot mean anything other than to bring the counter-cultural gift of Christ to our world, I feel that my high school realized this belief and did whatever it could to make sure its students new that as well. As Kolvenbach tries to tell us, it is our duty to bring justice and faith to others. By just sitting in a classroom, not everything can be learned about the world. A textbook or a brochure can only draw a picture for you that is illustrative but fails to captivate the picture with real colors. I was able to take this to heart at school. When I first noticed the flyer for the Arrupe Summer Program, I realize that this was an opportunity for me to “follow Christ in his labors, on his terms and in his way.” (Pg 26) I saw it as something forcing me to step outside my comfort zone. I know that I needed to bring my faith through service. Unless I actually took initiative, I would be unable to bring about promotion of justice, what we are all called to do.

As I took the step to join the world outside my own, I needed to understand the world itself. I would have done absolutely nothing to help these children if I didn’t understand the world they were from. And our worlds could not be so different. For instance, I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland in Lakewood, Ohio. I am an only child in which I am a spoiled brat and get everything I ask my parents that is reasonable. I have my own car, my own room, TV, and everything. Switch over now to a place that is probably only about 20 minutes away by road. These children lived in a home that suffers from domestic violence. They have to fight to get things that they need just to survive. They don’t have a father figure or a mother that is always there. Being educated about a world that I never thought possible was eye opening. I believe that my high school did a lot to teach me everything I needed to know before I took the job to be a counselor in the Arrupe Summer Program. According to Kolvenbach, the primary objective of the education is to make men and women for others, to understand that love must go beyond love for God but love for our neighbors. And this is hard to teach and take to heart. For instance, we were taught that the kids could be hard to deal with, that they may actually be cruel because that is all they know and have lived with. If I could do exactly what Kolvenbach suggests, I would not have had a problem dealing with these kids and it would have been extremely easy for me to love, to have agape for my neighbors. I would have been able to engage it constructively as Kolvenbach states. Being in the thick of it all, I was in the reality of the world and could become an adult of solidarity. It was not easy. At first, I hated the kids. They were loud, nasty, and constantly disrespected me. They would tell me often that I was nothing to them and did not need to listen to me at all. Even though I had the “personal involvement with innocent suffering”, it was becoming extremely difficult to have intellectual inquiry and moral reflection. Clearly, it would take something more for me to really take something out of the whole experience and begin a journey towards solidarity.

It was very hard for me to achieve true solidarity in the terms that Kolvenbach expresses. Through education, personal involvement, and understanding the world around us, we can achieve a love that extends beyond us. Even though I was having such a hard time with all the kids in my group, I needed to look beyond the situation. I needed to look beyond everything that was going on. I was slowly becoming aware of my surroundings. Instead of being upset and really let things bring me down, I took the opportunity to show love above myself. I needed to extend myself fully to those children because no one else. At the end of the day, I needed to be a man for others, not a man for myself. When they were mean to me, when they decided to act smart, I just laughed it off and gave them my hand even more. Eventually, we became friends and I am still connected to them till this very day. They call me and let me know what is going on with them at home. I grew to love them more than myself. Every time I go home, I see them and always check to see if they need anything. I believe that in my life, thus far, I have made a great step into journeying towards solidarity. I have seen the world, outside my own, and taken it and tried to bring justice to it. I have tried exercising my faith as Kolvenbach states that we cannot have promotion of justice without faith. They both work hand in hand. I have taken to heart that solidarity is a necessity to life if we wish to fully participate in this world.

At the end of day, not everyone can fully participate in the world. We can only promote justice to the parts of the world we are in. However, if everyone comes together to bring service and faith together strive towards achieving integration into the world around us and make it our reality, educating ourselves and educating others by our actions, we can become beacons to show others what it means to be Men and Women for others. At the conclusion of Kolvenbach, that is essentially what he is trying to tell us. Jesuit Education, Jesuit Tradition, and Jesuit living revolves around bring God to others, bring faith and just to our world. We are not creating the perfect world, but we are bringing our solidarity to where we go and that is the least we can do. You know, we aren’t God.

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