Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Place Where Love Means Love

The following is a reflection written by Laura Marie Marciano, an alum from our 2008-2009 Program Year.

Here are two things you should know:
a. The real world expects a lot of you.
b. So does Amate House.

And here are two more things you should also know.
c. they expect different things.
d. they are both the same place.

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?!!! Let me explain.

Over two years ago, I embarked on a year of post-graduate service at Amate House. I packed up my flashy East Coast life, and right before leaving, called Lisa Wolff to make sure there was a place that I could buy shoes in Chicago, because I didn't want to bring my entire collection with me. She assured me there was. OK, good.

As I moved into South House, my heart was pulled and pushed and expanded by my community, I repeated to myself over and over, "this is not the real world."

"Why not?"

"Well, Laura, because in the real world, nobody cares about you this much. Nobody decides it's a better idea to talk to someone who is crying or upset than to ignore them until that strange liquid dries up in their eyes. Nobody in the real world takes $200 a week to buy food for over ten people as a blessing, thinks a busted box T.V. and discolored couches and a rousing game of man hunt is the best way to spend a Thursday evening, secretly awaits, in earnest anticipation, for Wednesday night community outings to hear lectures on social justice and be in the company of dorky, loving and open-hearted volunteers, and believes that driving around (and/or pulling the prank of the year by stealing it for a few hours) in an electric blue Suburban is the best thing since sliced bread."

"Is that all?"

"No! No, that is not all! You want to know what else? Nobody in the real world would support their friend who was going through the hardest emotional unrest of her young life with constant, steady, unconditional love. Nobody in the real world would take a day out of work to bring her to the hospital because she had an anxiety attack, or spend one of their free evenings sitting and talking with her, holding her in their arms, with the most sincere and genuine patience. Nobody in the real world would praise her for the undying love she gave to her students, even though she was often late for work or was disorganized or overwhelmed or not herself.

"And most especially?"

"Most especially? Most especially, no one in the real world would invite this broken girl, full of love and frustration, out for breakfast, to ask her if she would do Amate House the honor of being their key-note speaker at their annual gala, Amate Magic, to represent them with her honest voice, no matter how unsteady it seemed to her."

What was this? When else in my life had I been so broken, so tired, with a loss of confidence, and at the very same time, a community of people did not let these wounds shield them from my character, but rather, saw right to the root of my soul, and embraced my spirit, glorified my talents, and honored me? Me?

Yeah, me.

I will never forget that breakfast at Huck Finn's Diner when I found out what real love felt like and looked like and heck, even tasted like (chocolate chip pancakes, I believe it was.) I will never forget how in my darkest hour of uncertainty, there were people who were telling me I was wonderful! They weren't firing me, putting me down, telling me to get out, to leave, to find another place. They were inviting me in and comforting me. They were making sure they didn't let go, so I wouldn't let go. They were telling me that I am loved. Really, truly loved.


Now I am living in New York City, and even at my very best, I don't get that kind of love so freely. I work and study in the arts. Talk about "real world." Well, yes. Talk about it.

You see, in NYC a lot is expected of me-- I have to be ultra creative, ultra successful, and ultra on time. At Amate House, all of these things were expected, of course, but most importantly, I had to be ultra loving. That love was what was real. I have realized that Amate House was in fact the real world, perhaps more real than any other world, the realest of the real. And if this is all one world, which I believe that it is, then the type of life being lived at Amate House is one that should be orbiting to every corner - and how?

"Yeah, how?"

By spreading that Amate love around. By telling each person you meet that you know of great love, and that you want to offer it to them. By giving the underdog a chance, by having great patience, embracing the talents of others, and building community. By making New York as warm as Amate House. By making the whole world as warm as Amate House.