Friday, September 13, 2013

Learning How to Fly

The following is a reflection written by Kara Kindel, one of this year's South House Volunteers.

“Like a butterfly stuck in a chrysalis, waiting for the perfect moment, I was waiting for the day I could burst forth and fly away and find my home.” - Emme Rollins

When I was younger, if you walked into my room you would most likely assume that I had an obsession with butterflies. You would first see the giant, colorful, butterfly kite above my bed, and then perhaps the poster of butterflies on the wall. If you looked closer you’d probably see a few painted butterflies hanging here and there, and then realize that those glow-in-the-dark things on my ceiling were not stars, but butterflies. The only problem is that for me, the butterflies were not a happy presence, but rather an infestation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t enjoy butterflies, but these were all gifts, not something I sought out.  Now, after such over-exposure, I avoid butterflies especially in decorations, and my room is nicely redecorated. Despite my resentment toward the swarm of butterflies I experienced, they seem to fit quite well into my reflections on transitions. Moving to Chicago to do a year with Amate House has been quite the transition. I’m farther from home than I've ever been, and jumping into a house with 11 strangers is something I cannot say I've ever done before. After being here for over a month, this new city, and new community has started to become home. It’s easy on some days to forget the struggles of the transition that I face, but on other days I’m up to my elbows in it.

A few weeks ago we started working at our service sites. I am working at St. Sabina Catholic Charities. We are an emergency assistance department, so we help people who are coming in for clothes, food, and resources. As an intake specialist, I meet with the clients and do assessments to see what we are able to provide for them. This is work I have never done before, so the transition from “I have no idea what I’m doing” to interacting with clients with confidence is a transition I’m still experiencing. Luckily, I have been blessed with very helpful coworkers who are more than happy to walk with me as I learn. I've gotten very good at asking questions so I can operate more comfortably here, and so that I can provide better services to those that I am working with. Soon, I will start coordinating the “Befriend a Family” program that we do here. This matches up our families with families from a sister parish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter gifts. It seems I am on the brink of starting a whole new level of this job, and right now I can only wait to see what that will challenge me with.

Besides getting used to where I work, I've also had to adjust to living in Chicago. Living in South House has become fairly natural, but at the same time, the transition is not yet finished. This past weekend, a group of my friends from the University of Dayton (Go Flyers!) visited. I was beyond excited to see them, and did not anticipate the internal conflict of having my two worlds collide. There were times I’d be walking around the city with them and wonder why we were in this huge city of Chicago instead of in Dayton. Other times I’d get very homesick, and wish I could just go back to Dayton with them. One of my friends noticed the internal conflict, and reminded me how important it is that I am here to grow, serve and learn. It was then that I realized the significance of that always terrifying “grow” word in the context of my transition to living here. Transition is very much growth. It’s that uncomfortable feeling that is so easy to run from, yet so good to work through. I can’t imagine that it would be entirely comfortable for a caterpillar to be stuck in that cocoon for weeks at a time. At some point they probably want to stretch their legs, and get out of there for a while. But if they endure the discomfort of growth, they transition into (drumroll please) a butterfly!

So, as much as I despise comparing myself to such a despicable and cliché decoration, coming to Amate House is very much the same as building my cocoon. The transition involves some discomfort, but if I remind myself that they are “growing pains”, and not just “pains” then I can look forward to the change, and the day that I can crack open the cocoon and realize that here I am fully at home. The problem with this is that the average life-span of a butterfly is about month. It seems the process of transitioning and growing is never fully complete, and I will be challenged with many cycles of building my cocoon, bursting out as a butterfly, and then soon finding myself as a caterpillar with another uncomfortable growth experience before me. The thought is terrifying at times, but there’s some crazy part of me that seeks that out. It seems to me that there’s no better place to encounter those experiences than at Amate House, and with the blessing of my new community, and a whole lot of prayer, I am confident that while I am here, I will learn how to fly.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Climb On!

The following is a reflection written by Rachael Brugman, one of this year's Little Village House Volunteers.

As I reflect on my first month at Amate, I cannot help to realize how fast this year will fly by. Just yesterday we were meeting each other for the first time, unpacking our belongings and attending orientation. Now I can feel myself adjusting to life in the city, settling in at my work site, and getting to know my roommates on a deeper level. When looking back on our orientation weeks, one specific day really stood out to my roommates and me. As much as we enjoyed the discussions about chores and petty cash; visiting Irons Oaks and engaging in some physical fun was the highlight of the beginning weeks of our year together.

Irons Oaks is an outdoor facility that provides team building exercises for many ages on their 37-acre nature preserve. For our visit we were presented with various physical challenges that promoted team work, good communication, positive feedback, emotional support, as well as self-reflection on our own strengths and weaknesses. Early on in the day I found my housemates and I to have a bit of a competitive streak in each of us; asking our leader to time us on our activities and if we beat the last “record”. Even with this competitiveness, we never forgot to work together, constantly collaborating on the best strategies to accomplish the challenges put in front of our team. Throughout the day we completed six different activities; each one showing us to work together, strategize, and have fun while supporting each other.

One particular activity stuck out to me after the day had ended. It included each person walking across a low tightrope while the remaining housemates acted as spotters walking alongside ready to catch the person if he or she would happen to fall (I am happy to say that no one did!). Before we began the tightrope walk each person would ask the spotters if they were ready. The spotters would respond back with a positive and encouraging “Climb on!” followed by the person climbing onto the tightrope and walking across. It felt a bit cheesy at the time but it was great to know that my housemates were there to catch me if I were to fall. I think it is important to remember this as we find ourselves struggling with our own issues and problems in our communities or at our work sites. We only have to look around us to find support and encouragement; knowing that if we shall ever fall, our housemates will be there to catch us. It is an indescribable feeling knowing how much support I have around me!

I have heard many times during orientation that the struggles and challenges we will face as a community will present us with opportunities to become closer and form relationships. I believe accomplishing the challenges we were presented with at Irons Oaks provided everyone opportunities to grow closer together as we stepped outside our comfort zones and pushed our limits both physically and mentally. At the end of the day we had a lot of fun laughing, strategizing, and working together, while also realizing we will be able to apply what we learned at Irons Oaks to our lives in our communities and at our work sites.