Serve Well Blog

July 2013 Entries

7.19.13

Staying to See
by 2012 Krista Colleague Tyler Hobbs
Part One in a Series

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Urban America

In my first months of teaching, I asked my students to explain integrity. Visualize an intersection, said Alex, a tenth grade English Language Arts student. In each lane, from each direction, there are drivers, passengers, and cars; each driver is going somewhere different, but each vehicle momentarily shares the same intersection. Integrity is standing in the middle of the intersection when all the lights turn green. If you can find a point from which to dodge the cars yet see who is driving them, well then you probably have integrity.

Alex suggests that to be integrated with a seemingly chaotic world, one must take the time to know it. This fifteen-year-old with failing grades and an impressive aptitude for sarcasm hasn't read Aaron Ausland's Staying for Tea, but seems to understand it. On that fall day when I had so often thought my teaching inadequate and my students disengaged, I was reminded what it meant to stay for tea-to see the cars from the middle of the intersection-and how incredibly difficult that can be.

When the academic year first began, my passions for learning about race relations, poverty, and gang violence were subdued by my inadequate comparative experience. How could I discuss race as the only white male in the room? How could I discuss poverty as a private university graduate? How could I discuss gang violence as a lifelong suburbanite? What I have learned, and what Staying for Tea reminds us, is that accompaniment begins not with shared experience but with sharing experience. Accompaniment does not require common ground, just the recognition of common humanity.

It is not an easy feat - I didn't know what it meant to have a father in jail; I didn't know why college wasn't their priority; I didn't know what it meant to have parents work four jobs. They didn't know what it meant to never think of race; they didn't know what it was like to leave your front door unlocked; they didn't know how it felt to have too much food. Yet together we have learned that understanding is important, but is not essential. We have learned acceptance - a surprisingly simple notion that requires only the recognition of ourselves in others and others in ourselves. That we have loved and been loved, lost and been lost, disappointed and been disappointed. We share in our humanity. That is enough.

When the death of Trayvon Martin first began to circulate in the news, some students were angry, others indifferent, others disappointed, but all were affected. My students ‘got' Trayvon Martin -- racially, culturally, experientially - and expressed a deeper empathy driven passionately by the absence of acceptance, the absence of Trayvon Martin's human recognition. My students saw a young man who wasn't understood, wasn't accepted, and was so very much like them. And as my students saw themselves in Trayvon Martin, so too did I.

Before George Zimmerman was acquitted, I had asked my students, for what reasons do you believe George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin? Was racial inequity the presumptive catalyst for Trayvon's death? Was Mr. Zimmerman's access to a deadly weapon to blame for his actions? Was it legislative inadequacy that justified Mr. Zimmerman's rationale? Yes, yes, and yes, depending on which student you asked.

Of course, neither I nor my students know George Zimmerman. I do not know why he called Trayvon Martin "suspicious;" why he chose to exit his vehicle despite being instructed not to do so; why he uttered racial slurs; why he felt it absolutely necessarily to pull that trigger; and of course, why his determination to do so will slowly fade from mainstream media, mindsets, and memories. Yet these incomprehensible occurrences, events, and people, are what Staying for Tea is all about. We are called to stay when staying seems so undesirable, when it seems there is no one, no thing, no experience to stay for.

But we often don't. I too often stand beside the intersection watching the cars pass , not wanting to immerse myself in a disruptive reality I know too little or too much about. Why should I see, accept, understand, accompany, or love George Zimmerman? Why should my students? They see themselves in Trayvon's life , I see them in Trayvon's life , and together we see George Zimmerman as the figure who brought that life to end. Yet what Alex unknowingly suggests, what Staying for Tea necessitates, is that just as I have stayed for my students, just as they have stayed for me, so too must we stay for George Zimmerman. We need not understand or accept his choices. We need only accept that one man shares in the life we too have lived -- that he has loved and been loved, lost and been lost, hurt and been hurt. Should that alone not be enough?

To stand in the midst of an intersection and see the drivers, the passengers, the figures that pass seems daunting. I do not know that I can do what Alex demands ; if I can accept, understand, and accompany all those I encounter. Yet what Staying for Tea implores of us is that we are called to stay for one another, to truly see each other, despite the many reasons we have to do otherwise. If we can do so, if my students can do so, if we can stand in that intersection and recognize the humanity that intersects our own experience, we will have made one another better, we will be persons of great integrity, we will be persons of great, unquestionable love. That, in and of itself, is undoubtedly and without question, enough.

 


Tyler Hobbs is a 2012 Krista Colleague and served at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles as a part of PLACE Corps (Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education) teaching junior history. He will continue service for one more year.


 

7.17.13

KF & SOZO Wine Partnershp

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press

Every time you purchase Sozo Wine at one of our KF or visit the the Sozo online store - and purchase a bottle of unique, well-made wine - you support the Krista Foundation!

It's partnerships like this and the support of folks like you that ensure we can continue equipping young adults with the skills to transform service experiences into lives of service leadership!

BUY A BOTTLE TODAY AND SUPPORT THE KRISTA FOUNDATION!

Click here to see what all the fuss is about (we suggest the Generosity Syrah Tempranillo!) 

Just add any bottle(s) to your shopping cart and select the Krista Foundation as the organization to receive support! 

7.8.13

Growing People, Growing Plants
by Amanda Brown, 2012 Krista Colleague

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

The tag line "Growing People, Growing Plants" of L'Arche, where I served this past year as a Jesuit Volunteer, became my personal mantra for the year. The organization, L'Arche Farm and Gardens, puts people and relationships first and everything else second. The farm, a community-supported, group employment program for adults with developmental disabilities,strives to build "inclusive communities of faith and friendship where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together." In French L'Arche translates to "the ark" and was founded by Jean Vanier in 1964 in France.

Our community in Tacoma has four houses and a farm. Each house has three to five core members along with several live-in assistants. The farm employs eight adults with disabilities, two full time staff, two full time AmeriCorps members (one Lutheran volunteer and one Jesuit volunteer), and hundreds of community volunteers. The adults with disabilities are referred to as "core members" because they are at the heart and core of everything we do. Every day on the farm is unique - especially as seasons change - but every day starts with Morning Prayer and a meeting. At the meeting we take turns sharing about our lives - both the exciting and difficult. Then, we review responsibilities and get to work weeding, harvesting, transplanting, or cleaning the greenhouses.

I experienced many poignant moments while at the farm. These specific moments were times when I saw the mission of L'Arche at work. Our mission statement reads, "Mutual relationships and trust in God are at the heart of our journey together. We celebrate the unique value of every person and recognize our need of one another." The journey together in mutual relationships is a principle I will carry from the farm for the rest of my life. I learned that I am not here to help someone who is perceived as "weaker" or "less able". I am merely here to join them on their journey for a short time. During our journey we build relationships and may both be transformed. Although I can't talk on behalf of the core members, I have enjoyed personal transformation in many beautiful ways.

Debbie is a core member who was a catalyst in my transformation. She is tiny in stature, soft spoken, and deeply spiritual. Every morning without fail she had a prayer request to share and enjoyed leading the farm in prayer. Debbie is a self-proclaimed veteran of the farm with 20 years of service behind her. Recently, a group of high school students came to work on the farm to volunteer for a week. After lunch, we all said goodbye and returned to the fields to weed around the tomatoes and garlic. I walked past Debbie and noticed her eyes were red and watery. I asked, "What's wrong?" because I was surprised to see her crying. She looked at me and said, "I am gonna miss those guys." I was struck by how fully and deeply Debbie was able to embrace these students who were only with us for a few days. She taught me that although it may hurt when the time comes to say goodbye, I am only fully living with times of both great sorrow and joy. Core members, like Debbie, have taught me to embrace people that come into my life even if for a short amount of time. It reminds me to live in the present, find joy in the simple, and unapologetically show my emotions by being with the core members.

This is where I see the intersections of L'Arche and the Krista Foundation. Many of the service ethics in "Staying for Tea" - an article by Aaron Ausland that Krista Colleagues are well acquainted with as part of our pre-service education - resonate with me. Ausland writes, "After some time, I realized something else was happening over tea. My title and position were being eroded, I was becoming real to them...My simplistic stereotypes of them were melting away; they were becoming real to me...They ceased to be poor and helpless people in need of assistance..." Instead of seeing Debbie as an older woman with an intellectual disability or seeing Zach, another core member, as a young man with a certain syndrome I simply see them as my friends, Zach and Debbie.


Similar to how Ausland writes about "checking our filters" Jean Vanier speaks to some of the same ideas. "The secret of L'Arche is relationship, meeting people, not through filters of certitudes, ideologies, idealism, or judgements, but heart to heart, listening to people with their pain, their joy, their hope, their history, listening to their heart beats." Ausland's service ethics were developed over "staying for tea", mine were over staying to pull weeds; but we both developed ethics through service.

I cherish the Krista Foundation for affirming and supporting my process of realizations. More than anything, an individual engaged in service and post-service needs a community to understand why they spent a year, two, or more in service. It is often difficult to find people who understand the motivation for pursuing service - away from the comfort zone of family and friends. Some people smile, nod, or just change the subject. Others enthusiastically thank a volunteer for being such a good person, "...because I couldn't do that...", or ask when I plan to join the "real world." The "real world", as others term it, is intimidating and a transition that is approaching much too quickly." I am unsure where my post-service journey will lead; currently the plan is to pursue a graduate degree in nutrition. However, wherever the path may lead, I believe that the Krista Foundation will help me retain what I learned in service. The Krista Foundation's level of understanding and support is invaluable - I am beyond grateful for their accompaniment on my service journey and beyond.

7.3.13

Is It Our Innocence?
by Krista Colleagues Jonathan Jackson & Kendall Paine

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

This year's conference theme, Cultivating Life Together: An Environment for Community, was an entry point for ways in which we are invited to live in community. We touched on everything from developing skills for self-reflection, engaging dialogue across differences, and recognizing and loving our neighbors more fully. Keynote speaker Katharine Hayhoe and workshop presenters engaged us in many ways of bridging differences and their importance for navigating a diverse and complex world.

Colleagues leading us in thoughtful reflection through vignettes was especially meaningful. One vignette challenged us in a unique and different way.

2012 Krista Colleague Jonathan Jackson performed a spoken word poem (which is provided in its entirety below.) Intergenerational mentors, guests, Krista Colleagues, and staff were all impacted in their own way when Jonathan performed the poem because his words and thoughts inspired us to wrestle with our faith, our service, and our role in community.

It is this type of deep pondering, self-reflection, and growth that the Krista Foundation wants to pursue further. Tomorrow, we are launching Significant Suppers where we hope to sort through the many challenging moments from our time of service.

This task of critical reflection - specifically processing the ways in which we've lost "innocence" - is central to a life of service leadership. Jonathan's poem, provokes us to self reflect on our ideologies and what has shaped them, as well as where we've had to step outside of ourselves. In a unique way, the poem asks us to focus on our similarities while recognizing and embracing our beautiful differences.

We invite you to join us in pondering the refrain from Jonathan's poem:

Is it our innocence we're protecting or our spirits we're neglecting?

How does one even respond to that question? How do you respond to that question? As a person nurturing a life of service leadership, what have you learned about the loss of "innocence" about the realities of both unrelenting suffering and tremendous blessing? How have you experienced the service journey as a spiritual path? Or, not? 

Share your responses below in the comments box! We look forward to seeing the ways you've been able to reflect on this poem's powerful message and insight. 

 


Untitled
It's a matter of perception
What's failure, what's perfection
Who you choose in the election and what fuels that selection
But if you take the time to question
What you were fed at inception
To check the references section, you'll learn a valuable lesson
See, the act of simply accepting
The opinions of your brethren
The sermon taught by your reverend, no beginning just an ending
Leaves too many of us guessing
Pulling our hair out stressing
Unable to discern if something's a curse or it's a blessing
 
We walk in the same direction without watching where we're stepping
Is it our innocence we're protecting or our spirits we're neglecting?
 
We learn from an early age who we are and we're not 
Those without much learn to be grateful for the little they've got 
And those who have learn to feel sorry for the ones who do not
And think their ticket into heaven is something that can be bought
Rather than embrace diversity of opinion and thought
We're told we should just melt together, like fondue in a pot
Drop the rituals, the traditions and the customs we've got
And blindly accept every single thing that we're taught
 
But are the problems solved by saying we don't see complexion?
Or acting like we don't notice when two men show affection?
Do we think by pretending left and right are just directions,
We can keep Black and Latino men out of corrections
Maybe if we donate a dollar to the food connection
We can feed the family begging at the intersection
And while a meal for that family is surely a blessing
Is the problem solved or does the cause go on without detection?
 
We walk in the same direction without watching where we're stepping
Is it our innocence we're protecting or our spirits we're neglecting?
 
Its seems as though the list of problems is never ending
But are we ignorant to the facts or are we just pretending?
Is it that we've yet to find something that's worth defending?
Or do we keep our mouths closed out of fear of offending?
Never attending to those whose wounds we could be mending
It seems we spend our time befriending
Those who see no point in lending us a hand or comprehending
Our struggles, too busy tending to their own condescending agendas
Focused on blending our differences and pretending
That color has no relevance and culture is not transcending
 
We walk in the same direction without watching where we're stepping
Is it our innocence we're protecting or our spirits we're neglecting?
 
It says all men are created equal in the constitution
But that text for me has always been a source of confusion
Tell that to the victims of religious persecution
Or to the desperate women forced to resort to prostitution
People are victimized daily but where's the restitution?
Politician says they'll fix your problems, if you just sign this resolution
But no matter how much ink is spilled we still see no solutions
It seems as if our only resort may be a revolution?
 
Or maybe if we closed our mouths and we opened our eyes
Dropped our preconceived notions and looked deeper inside
Perhaps then we'd start to recognize all of the lies
That have fed into our reluctance to put difference aside
Social constructions that contribute to our false sense of pride
And make us approach life as a battle where we must choose a side
 
In order to change the world we must start within
Learn who we are, search our souls, and only then
Can we truly embrace another and call them a friend
Rather than treating them simply as a means to an end
And not ignore the differences but rather celebrate them
If there are multiple opinions then we should elevate them
The goal is not uniformity but rather unity
Because only on that foundation can we build community
 
We walk in the same direction without watching where we're stepping
Is it our innocence we're protecting or our spirits we're neglecting?
 
Is it our innocence we're protecting or our spirits we're neglecting?
-Jonathan Jackson

 

crystal evening clutch