Friday, December 18, 2015

Movement in our Rebirth

The following is an Advent reflection written by Jesús Nuñez Xoconoxtle, one of this year's Little Village House Volunteers.

I’m a health educator at Erie Family Health. Like several Amate volunteers, my initial job description isn’t really an accurate description of what I actually do. Sometimes I talk about cavities to Kindergarteners. Sometimes it’s a frank conversation on starting to wear deodorant in the 6th grade. At least twice I’ve had to learn how to say pap smear in Spanish. “Papanicolau” if you’re wondering. But in spite of what I’m teaching, I give the same spiel everywhere I go, no matter where I am. “My job is to teach people how to be healthy, and why it’s important to be healthy”.

Erie’s mission is to provide accessible, affordable, and high quality healthcare to those in need. I live out this mission primarily through education. The neighborhoods I work most closely with are North Lawndale and West Humboldt Park. The people and students here face several challenges thanks to a complicated history with the city that I still struggle to figure out and understand. They are labeled a lot of things because of where they live, how much they earn, and the color of their skin. But to me as a health educator, I see people who have the same right to good health as any other person.

Using education as a means to achieving good health is powerful to me. Simply said: We are preventing a wound, and not fixing an infection. Although I love education as a whole, to me, the funnest part of education isn’t getting the “how to be healthy” down. Because that’s just me spewing out facts left and right and hoping what I say sticks. It’s a one sided way of doing things and although I have been prepared to provide this information, it is not always the best approach.

For this reason, the exciting part to me is getting at the “why”. Focusing on the “why” allows me for the greatest part of my job: inspiring and motivating others. Inspiring others to take ownership of their health and respecting their bodies by understanding their own feelings and knowledge of health, and why it matters. I may not be here with all of the answers, but I’m at least here to motivate you to find the best answers for yourself. It gives people the autonomy and power to take things into their own hands.

Similarly, when I think of the concept of rebirth, I think of inspiration. An inspiration that isn’t fleeting, but lingers, confuses, moves, and transforms. Amate was the natural part of my journey because I was, and still totally am confused. And better yet, I get to share this journey surrounded by other confused and confusing people. We are all in the process of rebirth.

We are moved by what our service sites throw at us through challenges and moments of grace. We are moved by our neighbors and new housemates/friends, as they reflect our biggest weaknesses and vulnerabilities, along with joys & awesome dinners we cook together. We are moved by the struggle of being away from the loved ones that aren’t in this city, but will always be in our lives. But ultimately, we are transformed to live out our journeys in a meaningful and contemplative way. So I urge everyone to use the holidays as an opportunity to evaluate what moves you, and how have you transformed yourself in the past year.

Amate House is accepting applications for the 2015-2016 Program Year! Our early application is January 15 - learn how to apply by visiting us at

Receiving the Unexpected and the Unknown

The following is an Advent reflection by Kate Kennealy, one of this year's Little Village House Volunteers.

“Mary was a beautiful, faith-filled door. When the divine visitor tapped on her heart, she was at first hesitant and afraid. Full of questions and concerns, she paused for clarity before she opened the door. But she did not let her hesitations keep her from extending a welcome to love. With her “Yes, you may come in,” Mary is every person who has stood at the door and felt fearful of the future with its unknown direction. She is every person who has experienced self-doubt or has had a totally unexpected event upset them. She is each of us struggling with our own fears and hesitations when the Holy One taps on the door of our life asking for an entrance. “–Joyce Rupp

I had many hesitations right before I left for Chicago. I questioned my decision and honestly did not want to leave what I knew, what was comfortable and easy. But I didn’t let my hesitations stop me, for whatever reason I opened the door and I'm still discovering what’s behind it.

Beginning Amate House was daunting. Starting work and Coordinating an after school program by myself was a challenge I doubted I could accomplish. I began questioning it all and had a deep fear inside of me, as Mary did when she stood at the door. Am I the right person for this job? I don’t speak Spanish very well and I’m not exactly as experienced as someone else might be in my position. Why am I doing this? Do I want to do this? Am I worthy? Am I good enough? These questions and doubts invaded too much space in my head. They paralyzed me with fear and held me back. It is a constant struggle to find clarity and comfort in the chaos. But, slowly I started proving myself wrong and even though doubts are still present, I am trying to be more accepting and gentle with them.

Amate revealed all of my flaws and insecurities and they seemed to show like an open wound for me. This was a terrifying, vulnerable place, but there is something special about having a community behind you during those times when you don't want to be seen or heard. Not only do they acknowledge the challenges, they ask questions that you want to avoid just because it's easier. Mary also had hesitations and doubts. She was authentic in her response and it took time to pause and reflect before she could accept with love.

Welcoming the unknown like Mary is something that I strive to do. With that, I can also relate to the fear she had in the beginning, and then eventually seeing the light. While working with 3rd-5th graders it has rejuvenated my energy to focus on the present moment. Seeing the world through kids’ eyes is always so refreshing for my spirit because some of them act so invincible; their dreams are so big and no one can tell them how to feel. It doesn't matter what they don't know because they live very much in the moment. The unknown can be exciting for them and it should be for us too. I miss this, back when we spoke with less doubt and more confidence. Fearless. I am lucky to have that spirit in front of me as a reminder that the unknown can take you on an exciting journey if you allow it to.

I crave Mary’s clarity and acceptance as I encounter the unknown because she welcomed love into her heart. It is easy to want control in your life. At work and in community I am learning to really focus on what I can control even if that is a very small amount. Letting go and being content with the outcome. I'm not always going to get reassurance but that shouldn't stop me from having confidence in my own capabilities. I cant control my roommates happiness and fix their problems. But, I can be present with them and hear them out when they need it most.

Mary was so gentle with herself and even though she was full of questions she did not allow this to take over her heart. Her fears were present and valid but she turned them into a fearless spirit that is admirable. I want to be kinder with myself and my fears. Though they may seem endless; it is important to not let this define who I am. Mary had doubts about the unexpected like many experience. And because of that Mary is every person. She is you, she is me. A beautiful faith-filled door.

Amate House is accepting applications for the 2015-2016 Program Year! Our early application is January 15 - learn how to apply by visiting us at

Waiting in Quiet Watchfulness

The following is an Advent reflection by Eryn Gronewoller, one of this year's Little Village House Volunteers. 

When I was in pre-school, I would wait in anticipation for the day I could go to kindergarten and learn with the big kids. When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait for the day I would graduate, leave my small school, my small hometown, and go to college. When in college, I refused to wait until I was an upperclassman to take advanced classes or study abroad. My whole life, I have been in a rush to move on to the next thing, always prepared before the world told me I was ready. I was forced to be patient though restless, to wait my turn, to wait for my time.

Now I am waiting for other things. In my work at little brother friends of the elderly, I require constant and unfailing patience.  I wait holding open doors for elders who move slow and unsteady. I wait with my elders for their social security checks so I can help them go grocery shopping. My elders in turn wait for my phone calls and visits. They wait by their doors for me to pick them up to go to holiday parties. Some wait for visits from loved ones or old friends. They wait at doctor’s offices, wait for test results on their health. Some bide their time, waiting to die.

When in the presence of my elders, -my brain, my busy schedule, my hectic life- it all slows down. I look at my elders who are all over the age of seventy, and I ask myself- why am I in such a rush? What’s my hurry? Life is long and should be enjoyed.

But my elders look at me in my youth and feel differently. They tell me- life is short, don’t waste it.
For them there is no more waiting for what the future will hold. Me- I see my whole life ahead of me. But I’m no longer rushing to the next thing. I have no idea where I will be next year, when my career may start or my journey may lead. I struggle not to have all the answers, not to have a set plan, not to have it all figured out. But for once, I am content in the waiting. I know God will guide my path, and that I need this time to quiet my heart, learn, grow, and know Him. I know he has something great planned for me just as we in advent preparation know the great coming of Jesus is imminent. It is easy to get caught up in the craziness of life, the hectic bustle before Christmas, the anxiety and anticipation. It is easy to forget what it truly is we are waiting for.  It is easy to forget that we can find peace in the waiting. Because life- whether you think it is long or short, whether you are inpatient or patient, ready or not- is made in the quiet moments when we are waiting for it to happen.

Amate House is accepting applications for the 2015-2016 Program Year! Our early application is January 15 - learn how to apply by visiting us at

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Giving Thanks

The following is a reflection written by Mark Greci, one of this year's Volunteers in the Uptown Community.

To those that do not know me, I’m Mark, a current Amate House Volunteer from the Uptown Community. In a sense, I’m introverted yet love being with people. Typical for Amate House, I’ve been given a place, I’ve been met at where I’m at, and – led by example – I do hope I’ve contributed towards doing the same. 

Given that all the Amate community members have their own Amate stories, I do hope that what I share offers some light on what this year has meant for me so far and, in a non-dogmatic sense, resonates with how others experience Amate House.   

When I would explain what brought me to Amate House, I would give a two part answer. One – I needed to return to the Midwest –, and two – I was seeking a meaningful, relevant law-related position.  Retrospectively, both of these draw to my young-adult-self.   

Amate House has given me both. Right now, the distinctively Midwestern turn of seasons makes me happy. Furthermore, my service at Cabrini Green Legal Aid allows me to work with talented professionals in assisting Chicagoans find stability after encounters with the criminal justice system.   

As many of my Amate friends have uncovered, the people that we all serve each have their own stories and merit their own responses. Often, the natural North House living room conversations refocus this to me. In many other ways, the community enriches my outside engagement. Their friendship makes this service year more substantial – and fun. 

Beyond the Midwest and the legal service, the community life has come to be one of my favorite boons of this experience. We share daily life with authenticity and humor – with friendship and familiarity. To be direct, the intentional community, both of the “inter and intra” house variety, has touched me for the better.  And while autumn and the service both have profound worth in themselves, the imperfect and always-in-development community life provides much of the scaffolding and the energy that creates a significant part of the world that I’m grateful to participate in.    

To state obvious facts, it is not seamless.  Rather, the unassuming events of everyday life such as coffee at night, grocery shopping on Mondays, and scrambling to do the weekly chores on a Sunday afternoon ground the friendships, the trust, and the conversations that further inspire my maturing relationship with the world.

And somewhere in the fabric of the budding friendships and conversations, there dwells a sense of a shared experience, of growing trust, of growing acceptance, and of a comfortable silliness that only makes sense because it is silliness amongst friends.  

So, that is what I am thankful for right now – novel service experiences, Chicago having distinct seasons, growing friendships, and being able to share subtle laughter that marks enjoyed presence of truly appreciated company.

Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Amate House Volunteer featured on Taller de Jose blog!

Amate House Volunteer Roberto Martinez recently wrote a reflection on behalf of his current site placement, Taller de Jose - it's titled "Waiting Rooms, Vulnerability, and Stevie Wonder: A Reflection on Accompaniment." Check it out!

Learn more about Taller de Jose by visiting their website:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Being" and "Doing"

The following is a reflection written by Stephen Umhoefer, one of this year's Volunteers in the Uptown Community.

It’s easy to forget how quiet the world can be. A few weeks ago we had our fall retreat at Ronora Lodge in Watervliet, Michigan. At that point it had just been a little over two months since we all began our service. Two months of becoming situated at our sites and figuring out where exactly we fit in. Two months of living in Chicago and becoming familiar with its size, sounds, and tempo. Two months of living in community. Getting out of the city a few weeks ago felt like it came at just the right time. I think it was becoming easy for me to fall into a daily routine and not give much thought about what I was doing. Being pulled out of that allowed for things to be viewed from a different perspective.

There are days where is seems like the time I’ve put in at my site doesn’t add up to much at the end of the day. But I’ve wondered if it’s not to much the ‘doing’ than it is the ‘being.’ Maybe just being a presence at my service site is just as crucial as any individual moment where I’ve helped someone. Maybe just showing up every day ready to take on whatever task is asked of me is enough for those I connect with to see that they are cared for.

It wasn’t until I was out of the city and walking on the trails in the forest that I appreciated just how soothing presence can be. Gazing among the silence in the trees gave me a calm that I didn’t think I was in need of.

As the weeks accelerate towards Thanksgiving and then Christmas I will be doing my best to acknowledge my presence. My presence within myself, my presence in my relationships within my community, and my presence within my service site.

I came back from fall retreat with a new lens with which to look through during my time in Amate House. ‘Being’ can be just as important as ‘doing.’

Enjoy these photos from Fall Retreat:

Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Restorative Power of Peace Circles

The following is a reflection written by Margaret Waickman, one of this year's Volunteers in the Little Village Community

Respect. Patience. Active Listening. Honesty. Authenticity.

It’s unsurprising to talk about these values during a year of post-graduate service with Amate House. These values are integral to community life and serving at our work places on a day-to-day basis. During our fall in-service at the Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation, however, these values took on new meaning within the setting of a peace circle.

Peace circles, a restorative justice practice used to respond to conflict, oftentimes bring together individuals on all sides of a conflict. At the beginning of each peace circle, values are set by those sitting in circle. While the leader of the circle brings some values to the circle, anyone can add the values which she feels are necessary for the peace circle. This process of setting values places ownership of the circle within the hands of those participating in the circle.

During our visit to Precious Blood, we sat in circle with other Amate volunteers and Precious Blood staff members. Our circles were of the “get to know you” variety, rather than in response to any conflict. Participating in the circle, however, allowed us to better understand the work of Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation. Situated in the Back of the Yards is neighborhood in southside Chicago, this ministry uses restorative justice and peace circles to respond to the neighborhood’s conflicts. Back of the Yards is a neighborhood with both joys and challenges, but it is perhaps in the news most for the violence which occurs there. Just the night after our in-service, a family coming back from an outing was shot in the neighborhood. Three were wounded, including an 11-month-old baby. The child’s mother and grandmother both died.

This is the heaviness which the community of Back of the Yards deals with on a daily basis. Precious Blood Ministries is there to walk with the community through this heaviness. Through victim-offender peace circles, community members who have committed a crime against another community member come together, in circle, to respond to the crime. Precious Blood also holds peace circles for mothers who have either lost a child to gun violence or who have a child locked up in the criminal justice system. In circle, these women come together to grieve their losses, mutually, despite the seemingly opposing differences in their situations.

Precious Blood Ministries was not my first exposure to peace circles; I studied restorative justice in college, and I work at a service site which also uses peace circles and restorative justice techniques. I find that there is a great, humble power derived from sitting in circle. Whether you are sitting in circle to respond to a conflict or to get to know those around you better, peace circles always cultivate listening. Listening is what we so often forget to do. I personally often get wrapped up in my hurt, my feelings, my opinions in a conflict, and I forget that there is another rational human being also embroiled in this conflict. The circle cultivates listening, which I always find causes me to remember the common humanity of those I sit with.

I entered into a year of service to more fully understand our legal system. I hope to attend law school next fall and eventually become a trial attorney. Before entering my formal legal education, however, I wanted to more fully understand some of those who are most negatively affected by the criminal justice system - young black men and the communities in which they live. Working at Lawndale Christian Legal Center has been a hard and humbling experience, but one thing I have definitely learned thus far is that the criminal justice system is not enough for our communities. The work done in peace circles to respond to conflict brings healing into the process of dealing with crimes, an essential component for communities.

Respect. Patience. Active Listening. Honesty. Authenticity.

Will I ever work at a non-profit which uses peace circles after this year? Probably not. But, as a future lawyer, peace circles help me to strengthen and sharpen my listening skills. As someone who wants to enter into the broken system of criminal justice, peace circles help me practice the art of spending time focused on others - hearing their stories and seeing their dignity.

The 2015-2016 Volunteers at Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation in the Back of Yards neighborhood

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Serenity and Service

The following is a reflection written by Eryn Gronewoller, one of this year's Volunteers in the Little Village Community

God grant me the serenity…
          Like the serenity I feel when I look at Lake Michigan. Because when I look out into that great mass of water, I feel invincible, yet vulnerable. I feel small, yet not insignificant.  I feel like maybe I have a part to play in God’s plan, no matter how small, an important part.
          I thank God for the opportunity of Amate House. Without it I would not be in Chicago living with 7 other strangers who over the past two months have become my family. I would not be working for a nonprofit that cares for Chicago’s isolated and lonely seniors. I would not have grown in ways that right now are hidden to me, but I feel myself growing. It has been an adjustment. There have been growing pains. Yet I know this is where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing. I have peace in knowing God has a plan for me here. 

To accept the things I cannot change…
          My boss says the elderly are just “recycled children.” They require a lot of care and attention. Sometimes they get cranky if they don’t have a nap. When working with both, patience is a necessary skill. Yet unlike children, the elders I work with have lived long lives. Lives filled with love and loss. Personal histories touched by war and abuse. Times when they have had it all, and times when they have had nothing.
          My job is to listen and care. My job is to be there, because they have no one else. I am forced to accept that my elders are alone and lonely. Many live in nursing homes where they face indignity and disrespect. They are isolated and forgotten. It is easy for me to blame society for not valuing the elderly, or to blame their families who seldom visit, but I can’t change that.

The courage to change the things I can…
            I can be a bright spot in their day. I can provide direct service and basic care or just be the listening ear they need. I can take them out and listen to their stories about the city, appreciating the joy they get just from driving around their neighborhoods. I can provide companionship that they so desperately crave and need. To me it may not feel like much, but to them it is everything.  
            Over the past two months I have seen how a simple haircut could change my elder into a new man, spirited and alive. I have helped to throw parties where elders get the chance to talk to other elders, eat a good meal, and dance to the music of their youth. I’ve heard first hand stories of world events I’ve only read about in history books, and seen the strength of each elder as a survivor. One of my elders told me that getting old isn’t for the weak, and I see he was right. They face struggles and challenges every day that at my age never even cross my mind. While I can provide friendship and comfort to them, my elders teach me more and more each day.

... And the wisdom to know the difference
            As I reflect on the past two months with Amate House, I thank God for the opportunities he has provided me thus far. I am thankful for my education and the skills I have that enable me to better serve the people I work with. I ask God for wisdom in continuing this year of service, as I know I will need it. In the meantime, I can learn from the life wisdom of my elders. I can share in the experiences of my housemates as they too take their own different journeys through this year.
            No one makes it through life unscathed.  We love. We suffer. We care. We endure. It is in those life moments that we find each other. Eight strangers forced to live together, to support each other, to change one another. A volunteer and an elder getting to know one another, crossing a bridge of loneliness and finding common ground. Those human connections are what I have found make life worth living. I am thankful for the beautiful humans who have come into my life as a result of Amate House, and it is a pleasure to grow a little bit older and a little bit wiser with them. 


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Community in Theory

The following is a reflection written by Leslie Carranza, one of this year's Volunteers in the McKinley Park Community

Up until this point, I have struggled with one of the most prominent – and arguably the most important – tenets of Amate House: Community. Whether it's one of the other tenets that is getting in the way, or some part of me that is hard for me to share, I have been much more of a lurker in my house than a participant.

Of course, fostering a sense of community during Amate House’s Orientation was as easy as ice cream (since it's become a staple in our grocery budget and weekly routine, it seems much more relevant than pie). Our community rocked the team building exercises and came up with a realistic and thoughtful manifesto that resonated with the intentions we had for the year. Spirit animals, love languages, and the proper pronunciation of main street names quickly became inside jokes and things we would laugh about together at the dinner table, and really any other time we were all in the same room. I thought I was becoming a part of a community, and for the most part, I was. Orientation was vital for planting the seeds of community living, but much like the plants in our front lawn, those seeds need to be watered regularly.

Once we all started working at our sites, community living (and watering plants) took a back seat to other responsibilities. Fortunately, we have only been flirting with “dissues,” and the meals have been mostly vegetarian. As a collective, we have been pretty considerate with keeping most everyone in the loop when going on outings and inviting people over. Any issues I have been having with community living would not be with my community itself, but myself as a part of it.

Being just short of a hardcore introvert, I quickly get drained by excessive social interaction. Phone calls in general increase my blood pressure, and it doesn't help that I am naturally soft-spoken. After a long day of administrative work, my back and joints want nothing more than to plop into bed, read comic books, and maybe skip dinner in favor of more sleep. Reading, however, is not a social activity. So far, the ongoing challenge I face is the conscious decision to live in common with my housemates, sharing lives of support, challenge, and friendship. Up until this point, most of my communal living experiences have been mostly with people I didn't much care to get to know very well. Coming into Amate House, I knew I would fall back into my same ways if I wasn't careful.

I know intentionality is ongoing. Treating each other with charity can be as easy as sharing a giant bag of Skittles, or as difficult as accepting the fact that homemade salsa isn't quite as utilitarian as a pizza for the grocery budget. Gentleness may mean not speaking fluent sarcasm or verbally assaulting each other when work has been rough and a housemate is feeling incompetent in their new and challenging position. Respect, of course, is snaking the shower drain when you don't really have to – like when your hair is clearly not long enough to contribute to the mass that nearly resembles a ferret – but you take the time to do it anyway. However well-intentioned, theories can only do so much good until they are put into practice.

Never did I think that interacting with people my age would have to be so deliberate. The intentional creation of community may very well be one of the most daunting tasks I have ever challenged myself to accomplish. This past month has really pushed me to consider if I can live up to the expectations I have put upon myself, and so far, it helps to think that I don’t have a choice. In the obvious sense, I do have a choice, but in theory, I could very well stay the sort of person I have been in circles of friends and remain the observer (having studied the art of ethnographic fieldwork, I've gotten pretty good at it). However, I would be wasting my time as well as that of my community, the references that have spoken so highly of me to get me into this program, and the educators that saw potential in me where I did not see it in myself. If I don't at least come out a more compassionate, considerate, and holistically joyful person as a result of intentionally living and sharing with my community, then I will know that I didn't put as much into Amate House as Amate House and my housemates are putting into me.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What Remains: A Look Back on a Year in Chicago

The following is a reflection written by Abby Greaney, one of this year's North House Volunteers.

It is a natural tendency of mine to spend a good amount of time in reflection, and this year spent in service has given me much to reflect on. In this time I have had many strong and ever-changing feelings and insights. One such insight continues to stare me down in the face and refuses to be forgotten or brushed aside. It is, simply, that sometimes living in Chicago bothers me. It challenges me and it forces me to see the world, not as I would like it to be, but as it really is. The shocking reality that I have come to know, is that Chicago, while beautiful and brilliant, is a broken city. It is broken by poverty, segregation, economic inequality, and violence. And that is something I have struggled with.

“I see a skyline that only half the city gets to touch.” This is a line that really stuck with me from a play I recently saw about the devastating effects of the violence that occurs on Chicago’s south and west sides. These words were especially jarring because of my own love for Chicago’s beautiful skyline. Since I was young, seeing the giant skyscrapers reflecting silvery light or brightening up the night sky has always filled me with a sense of wonder and awe. It stands as a symbol of all my hopes and dreams for the future, and its unwavering presence gives me comfort and confidence. Even after living here for nearly ten months, that view has never gotten old or tired for me. But as I thought about those words from the play, I tried to put myself in the place of someone living in a Chicago much different from the one I’ve come to love. Someone in a city that seems to show no mercy, no care or concern if you live or die. A city that has segregated you, failed your schools and your community, and seemingly left you to fend for yourself. In that situation, my beautiful skyline becomes nothing more than an ugly reminder. A reminder of a place that has hopelessly trapped you. What I see as a symbol of dreams and potential is only a tease of possibilities that are so incredibly far beyond reach. This realization has been one of my many struggles this year.

I struggle with the frustration of knowing that life is so difficult for half the people in this city. It is same sense of frustration I often feel when I find myself driving through different parts of Chicago, watching as the neat and orderly streets of affluent neighborhoods fade into run-down, poverty stricken ones, marveling at how a ten minute drive in one direction can lead me into a seemingly different world. It’s the frustration that I have as I see church after church nestled in between dilapidated, boarded up homes and wonder how the God who watches His faithful pack those churches each Sunday can be the same God who watches children gunned down as they play in the park or walk home from school.

I struggle to reconcile my faith with the world I see around me. At a mass at St. Sabina’s Church on the south side, I was blown away by the strength of the faith that surrounded me. The people present were not there out of some sense of obligation or right-doing, but out of a true need for spiritual strengthening. Here were people struggling with poverty, violence, and injustice, experiencing a deep and spiritual connection that I don’t know if I’ve ever felt. They had every reason in the world to abandon faith, but there they were. I was amazed and inspired and wondered if I’d ever be able to have such unwavering faith in God’s love for the world.

I struggle with my job. I meet with clients nearly every day, and as I listen to their stories I wonder how on earth they are able to get through each day with lives that are constantly thrown into chaos. I wonder what events in their past lead them to where they are today, knowing that at one time they were probably just like me, young and filled with hope as they began to make their way in the world. I marvel at the fact that in the Lakeview neighborhood, one of the nicest and most well off in the city, there are over two thousand individuals each month who come to the pantry to get basic necessities. And I continue to see many of the same faces month after month, realizing that we give only a temporary solution to a much bigger problem that’s way beyond our control.

Then there are all the folks coming in from other neighborhoods, where pantries are either non-existent or woefully inadequate at meeting needs of the community. These individuals are served once by Lakeview Pantry and then referred to a pantry closer to where they live. There was one client I spoke to, at the pantry for the first time, who had come over an hour by public transit from the far south side, just to get some food for her family. She was a young woman, my own age, a single mother with three children, the oldest not more than four. In that moment, I realized that, had my life circumstances been different, I could have been in her same situation. It was a jarring thought. I talked her through the process of getting food and then gave her a referral to another pantry, my heart heavy. All I could do was hope that the other pantry would be able to help her and her family. It’s hard to turn people away, but our food supply is limited and we simply can’t help everyone. There is more need in the city than we will ever be able to remedy. Realizing that has been a struggle too.

And as I think about these experiences, thoughts, and, especially, struggles that I’ve had, I’ve begun to recognize something else Chicago has shown me. Like the city itself, I too am broken. Broken by my doubts and insecurity, unsure of myself and my future. Broken by my inability to feel as though I’m truly making an impact. Broken by my seemingly endless lack of faith.

So, with the year coming to a close, what remains? What do I take with me after my realization of a broken city and a broken self? Well, what remains is, that in all honesty, we are all broken people, broken by different things at different times. And with that brokenness comes the opportunity for healing. That’s really what this year has been about, recognizing our brokenness and the brokenness around us and working towards healing. I am not naïve enough to think that by giving out food to a family once a month or by sitting down and helping a young women with her resume, that I can even begin to make a dent in the brokenness of Chicago. But maybe, just maybe for that family or that young woman, I can help them along the path to healing their own human brokenness. And in doing that I am brought to healing as well.

What remains is that one true definition of service, two lives coming together to heal the brokenness of life. What remains is the journey of a lifetime, that path of personal healing that we all find ourselves on.

This year has given me the tools to press on in that journey: a willingness to serve, a desire to learn and grow, a faith to deepen and explore, and a love for others that I never could have imagined. Now I can go with purpose and with hope on the path of healing, for myself, for those around me, and for this beautiful, broken city I’ve come to call home. I’m thankful for that, thankful for all this year has given me. Thankful for the chance to become whole. And that is what remains. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

True Gifts

The following is a reflection written by Hilary Froelich, one of this year's North House Volunteers. She shared this as a part of the North House community's Pentecost Reflections, which took place May 20th.

You know how you walked through all of your classes before the first day, peeking into the classrooms, mapping out where you would sit, how fast you would have to walk to get from one class to the next? When it comes time to actually go there, you already know what you’re doing, where you’re going. That’s how I felt walking up to North House on that first day of August. I was confident. Confident in both who I was as a person and how I thought I would live out my life this year, and also in the position I thought I would have at my service site. It was like my class list was already memorized. My life here in Chicago would be an extension of the incredible year I had just finished at John Carroll – the one where I found myself through singing, prayer, and every campus ministry activity known to students. It was my turn to be the campus minister, to provide my students at Jospehinum Academy with the peace and enlightenment I had received from campus ministry, to use my quiet leadership and listening skills to connect with my housemates. As Saint Ignatius would say, I was ready to “go forth and set the world on fire.”

My fire started to turn into brightly lit coals, however, as I discovered that many high school girls aren’t using their faith life as a main topic of conversation. My attempts to start a youth group failed. Finding girls who would willingly stand up at the podium during Mass to read was almost impossible and the Sacred Silence I had found so important during Mass at John Carroll was filled with muffled chatter and giggles. That perfect image I had of this year being an extension of last year? – not so perfect. I found myself feeling both restless and hopeful as the year continued. I knew I was supposed to be at Josephinum, but my heart felt like it was constantly searching for something more, some sort of bigger fulfillment. I started spending more time in classrooms and less time in the front office, hoping to figure out just what it was that these girls needed in order to open up their hearts to faith and spirituality. I didn’t find anything to help them in their faith, but they certainly helped me.

My relationships with the girls began to blossom. I realized they didn’t need me to be a campus minister; they just needed my listening ear. Every day I was hearing about boy problems, school struggles, what they were doing over the weekend. My heart was being opened up for them, and I was drinking in all of their words, trying to love them as best as I could. I don’t know that I realized it as it was happening, but when I started working on retreats for each grade level second semester I knew what the girls would want, what sort of activities were going to be beneficial to them, which reflections and prayers would help them to open their minds and hearts. I’m not sure where this new courage and faith came from, but it was something I knew I needed to embrace and explore. I didn’t need to be the all-star campus minister; everything with campus ministry didn’t need to go perfectly to my plan. I just needed to be whatever my students needed me to be – a listener, a supporter, a shoulder to cry on, or a smiling face. My time at Josephinum has been a journey. I’ve walked with many people, but the Holy Spirit has always been by my side. It’s sometimes hard to recognize those difficult moments, where all you feel is lost, as a moment of grace, pointing you back towards the Lord. In Luke 24:13-35, we hear about the Road to Emmaus. The two men walking were filled with grief because the Lord had been gone; they didn’t realize that the man walking with them was, in fact, Jesus. Jesus has been walking with me throughout my year at Josephinum, I just needed the fire in my students’ eyes to recognize He was there. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Hopefully Waiting for the New

The following is a reflection written by Joe Ahlers, one of this year's North House Volunteers. He shared this as a part of the North House community's Pentecost Reflections, which took place May 20th.

When I walk into the Marjorie Kovler Center, I’m immediately surrounded by individuals who truly know what it means to grieve for the old but wait hopefully for the new.  The clients of the Kovler Center have experienced and survived the worst sort of cruelty that humankind can inflict on one another; physical and psychological torture.  Even after almost a year of having been exposed to a darker world that I didn’t even really know existed, the shock and hopelessness I feel when I hear or read a client’s torture experience has not worn off.  But there are certain individuals’ stories that really spoke to me when I thought about waiting in anticipation of the ascension. 

One such experience belongs to a survivor that I’ll call “Sean”.  I first met him when he walked into the Kovler Center a few days after I first started there.  Like many of the Kovler Center’s clients, Sean comes from Sub-Saharan Africa; more specifically from the former British colony of Nigeria.  When Sean first came walked in, I will admit that I was more than just a little intimated by him.  To put it mildly, Sean is a “big man”, tall and built in such a way that I wouldn’t doubt him if he introduced himself as the 3rd string middle linebacker of the Chicago Bears.  But when I started talking to Sean about his experience in his homeland, what really caught me by surprise about him was not his physique, but rather how soon into our conversation he started to break down and cry.  Sean explained to me that this was the first time that he had talked about the horrific events in his homeland and he simply could not contain the flood of emotions that he was experiencing.  He went on to say that he was a middle class laborer in his native city in Northern Nigeria, with a new wife and a 1 year old daughter.  He said the trouble started when an Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, started to become active in and around the area in which he lived.  Sean told me that he was a practicing Christian in a part of the country where very few did.  He told me that one night five armed men came to house and started to threaten his family if they would not convert to Islam.  To further scare him, they threw his baby daughter in a tub of water and would not let him rescue her.  Sean said he’s never been terrified or helpless in his life.  The armed men let him go to his daughter after 30 terrifying seconds, where he found her shaken up but alright.  The men then left but warned that they would return.   Sean immediately took his wife and daughter and fled to Chicago to live with his mother in law, where he learned about the Kovler Center a few weeks later.          

Sean left his entire life, culture, customs, and anyone he’s ever known behind, and was severely traumatized by his experience.  But with the help of his family, the Kovler Center, and his own resilience and hopefulness, Sean was able to start to feel whole again.  A few months after I first met him, he told us that his wife was pregnant.  A few weeks ago, his wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy with a huge mop of thick black curly hair that looks like he’ll be just as big as his father one day. 

This is just one example to me of grieving the old and waiting hopefully for the new.  Although I can never imagine what it feels like to leave behind everything and start over in a new world like our clients do, I’d like to think like that serving for two years has been a small taste of their experience.  I think we all feel some sort of grief for the friends, family, and lives we left behind when we entered this weird and wonderful experience called Amate House.  I for one still miss times where the world seemed so much simpler and pure.  Although I still find myself fairly anxious when I think about the impending storm of what staff likes to call “life after Amate”, I know that I will have the countless stories of strength and resilience of people like Sean and the support of eight other housemates to help guide me through whatever comes next.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Beginnings

The following is a reflection written by Liz Glasgow, one of this year's North House Volunteers. She shared this as a part of the North House community's Pentecost Reflections, which took place last Wednesday.

I often say that my senior year of college was the best worst year of my life. My family was going through many difficulties with my sweet grandma being sick and eventually passing away but also my brother getting into a destructive relationship and dealing with countless heart problems. With all this going on I was on an emotion roller coaster. Every time I thought okay we are on the up and up something would happen and I would be heading down.

 By my junior year of college all my friend groups had merged into one mega group to make an amazing group of friends that we liked to call “The Framily.” We have a patent on the name and even have T-shirts. Kidding we didn't patent the name but we did have T-shirts. We were always down for an adventure, constantly on the go, and could always be found together. I would walk into the cafeteria and people I would hardly know would tell me where my friends were sitting. Anytime one of the plummeting roller coaster dives got me they would all help pick me back up. They did this with camping trips, weekends in Chicago, watching endless hours of the OC, Frisbee in the park, and late night adventures. They keep me seeing the bright side of life. I was having bad days but I certainly had a beautiful life. As college came to a close I was like “Man there goes the best years of my life.” I knew I would still have those friendships but it would never be quite the same.

My next big adventure was a year of service…in Florida. Many of you may notice that as we stand in the courtyard that we are not in Florida. Through a rather weird turn of events (aka sketchy people) I realized in the very end of June that Florida was not the best idea, so through trusty Google I found the old Amate! I was pumped about living in the city I had always visited and gone a little wild. I was also super excited about making wonderful new friends.

The main difference about college and Amate is college you pick your friends and Amate the staff picks them for you. There were times those first couple months when I wondered what had I gotten myself into. There were what felt like endless conversations about groceries, how to handle conflict, and how we should handle chores. I would call my friends from college and of course my mother, and tell them how strange these new people I was living with were.  However, slowly but surely I found myself calling to tell them about how amazing they were. I would tell them about our drives to Sonic, our walks, trips around the city, and endless nights giggle in this place I now call home.

When I have a bad day I look forward to coming home and encouraged by my homies. When I have an embarrassing thing happen to me or a funny story I can almost picture how each of them will react now when I tell them the story. They became the people riding the roller coaster along with me and helping through my ups and downs. We enjoy the ride of life together, and honestly you can never have too many people doing life along side you. I’m happy to say that my Easter Sunday came in form of 8 other people. 

Friday, May 08, 2015

Looking Back on Two Years

The following is a reflection written by Mary Kate O'Connell, one of our five second year Volunteers. She currently lives in McKinley Park in our South House Community.

When I think about the last two years that I've spent as an Amate House volunteer, one word really jumps to the forefront: gratitude. I'm so grateful in so many ways -- to my family for supporting me when I told them that I wanted to work for no money and live eight hundred miles away from them for yet another year; to my site supervisors and coworkers who taught me so much about the importance of helping people find a safe place to call home; to the refugees and immigrants I've worked with who have taught me a profound amount about resilience and keeping your face towards the sun in the toughest of times; to the Amate House staff and various spiritual and professional development mentors for being beyond supportive and committed to helping me become the person I am.

Mostly, though, I am thankful for the nineteen people that I have lived with in these last two years. I'm so lucky to have been thrown into communities with nineteen people that have challenged me, made me examine myself, and made me better. An Amate House alum who had since moved on to another program where he lived in community told me that while other volunteer programs try to build community, Amate House actually does it. And while it’s true that Amate puts many things in place in the hopes of fostering community, all the work is not done for you. It is so easy to check out and coast through. The really important moments are not picturesque and beautiful – posing for a picture in front of the skyline all dressed up during Amate Magic, or cruising down the Chicago River on a warm night in August. The important moments are had around the dinner table after an exceptionally tough day, or when someone is giving their lifeline and can’t quite get through the rocky parts. There’s an Arab proverb that says, “Sunshine all the time makes a desert,” and I've learned to be thankful for the rain.

Now, dear Amate House blog reader, if you could do me the kindness of letting me address my nineteen current and former housemates directly, I would continue to be endlessly grateful. If you’re an Amate House Alum or if you've lived in a community at all, I’m sure you've wished for this public opportunity to say some things to your community members. I’m just fortunate enough to get the chance and I’m taking advantage of it:

To the first community I was a part of: I really just can’t thank you guys enough. When I first started Amate, I kind of thought that I had it all figured out. I was here to work with refugees because that was the coolest sounding option that I had and, sure, I would live with, like, a thousand other people, but that’s a drawback I could overlook. On my first day with the eleven of you, I thought, “Oh God, this is not at all how I pictured my year in Chicago to go.” Turns out the sweetness of the Midwest has not at all seeped into New Jersey, and the cultural shift was overwhelming. So while I was kind of floundering and trying to get my grip on how I would fit in to this new strange group, you all just accepted my roughness around the edges. I think that we could all agree that community didn't necessarily come naturally to us – we were always working at it. However, this is one of the reasons why I love you all so fully and you’re all so dear to me. The fact that we were always working over it and sweating over it made the year so much more meaningful. We all knew how important this group of people would be to us, and we all decided to get our hands dirty with the effort of making it work. I've said this to you guys a thousand times and I’ll say it a thousand times more: Thank you, I love you.

To my current community: I also can’t thank you guys enough… There’s a theme here. Off the bat, I knew I would love you guys. I fell in love even from some of your introduction emails. On the first night that we were all together, I remember looking around the table and not believing that this is who I would get to live with for the next year; I remember being astounded at my luck. And I have been so thankful every day that I decided to do another year of Amate. I can’t imagine my life if I had never met you all. Throughout these past ten months, I've had to stand back and catch my breath because we have had our fair share of beautiful and picturesque moments. I can’t count the times that I've turned to one of you and said, “Can you believe how lucky we are?” And, of course, we've had some rough moments, but those have been a small price to pay for the privilege of getting to spend the year with you all. So thank you guys for sharing your lives with me, you all are something else entirely and I’m lucky to experience this year with you.

To both of these communities as a whole: Thank you for hearing the dumb phrases that I say and adopting them as your own. Thank you for inquiring about my day when it’s probably clear that I had a very bad one. Thank you for asking me for advice when you’re not quite sure what to do. Thank you for eating the stuff I make for dinner even though it tastes the same every week. Thank you for bravely opening up about the big and small things in your life. Thank you for making me laugh – and I mean throw my head back, eyes closed laugh – every day for the last two years. Thank you for giving me a home and a family when I’m so far away from my home and family. Thank you for helping me be the person that I've always wanted to be.

Are you or someone you know looking for an experience like Mary Kate's? Amate House is still accepting applications for the 2015-16 Program Year! Download the Application here!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Amate Magic Volunteer Reflection

The following is a reflection by South House Volunteer Anna Paige Frein - she shared this reflection at this year's Amate Magic benefit dinner, held on April 17 at Chicago's Navy Pier Grand Ballroom.

Good evening everyone and thank you for celebrating Amate House with us tonight! We are so excited to have all of you here. My name is Anna Paige and I am a current Amate volunteer in South House. I have had the privilege of serving at St. Sabina Catholic Charities this year. St. Sabina is a part of Catholic Charities’ Emergency Assistance Department, so as an intake worker I primarily assess clients in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood for our food pantry and clothing program.

I decided to do a year of service a little over a year ago with a few personal goals in mind. I was finishing up my MSW and I knew that a year of service could provide some good social work experience, I wanted to continue growing in my Catholic faith while finding a way to incorporate it into a career path, and honestly as a born and raised Arkansan and an Arkansas Razorback alum, I was tired of the same old scenery so I thought Chicago would be a good change for a year.

I got my site assignment at St. Sabina around the time of the explosion of national news coverage of the gun violence on the south side of Chicago, and to be honest it intimidated me. I grew up in a small sleepy town in the delta where gun violence rarely occurs and where you can make the front page in the local newspaper for catching a 30 pound fish.  Many people back home would react with alarm and worry when I told them that I would be working in Chicago for a year. “Why would you wanna move up there, honey?”, they would ask with true concern in their voices.

Needless to say, I probably looked like a deer in the headlights on my first day at St. Sabina. In fact, my parents wanted to come with me to the agency when we first arrived in the city. My supervisor, Ms. Tillmon, promised that she would take good care of me throughout the year and she has definitely kept her promise by fostering both my professional and spiritual growth. Looking back now, I recognize that if I had never decided to do a year with Amate House then I would still hold that ignorant fear of communities like the south side of Chicago.

The only thing I would know about this part of the city is what the news stations repeated over and over again last summer. I wouldn’t know how resilient and faith filled most of the people are here. I wouldn’t have as strong an understanding of the struggle of poverty and the different levels of the human experience. I wouldn’t have met the homeless woman who came to me crying because people were making fun of her dirty clothes at the bus stop. I wouldn’t have met the single father who is always smiling even though he was just diagnosed with cancer. I wouldn’t have met the man with crippling arthritis who thanks God  for the ability to get out of bed and live another day.

And I am definitely not the only one who has had this experience this year. The fact that 26 other young volunteers from around the country decided to dedicate a year of their lives serving others is such a unique and beautiful thing.  Amate House introduced me to some of the most brilliant and courageous young adults around and I know that we have all been challenged and experienced growth because of this program. As we all embark on our different directions this June I know that we will all take a piece of Amate and each other with us.

Thank you again for supporting such an incredible program tonight. We hope you enjoy the rest of your evening!

Thanks to everyone who came out to support us at this year's Amate Magic! If you missed us that night, check out the feature video from the program below!

It's not to late to apply to be an Amate House Volunteer! Download the application at

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

The following is a Lenten reflection written by Danny Tortelli, one of this year's South House Volunteers.

Maybe a week before Thanksgiving break during my first year of Amate, I found myself standing in the cafeteria of Perspectives as a lunchroom chaperone. I wasn't in there long before an 8th grade scholar of mine, Kenny, came up to me.

“Mr. Tortelli, you get my Turkey-gram?” With my mind in a million other places, it sadly took me a moment to figure out what he was talking about.  It was an assignment that was given to the middle school students in their Disciplined Life (or “character-building”) classes. Here, each student would write a turkey themed telegram to a staff member about how grateful they are for said individual. At the time I highly doubted I, as a first year volunteer teachers-assistant with a last name only 2 letters away from “tortilla”, would be receiving one of these kind and cute affirmations when it seemed only the well-seasoned, easier to pronounce staff members were getting them.

“No, I haven't,” I told him. “I don't have a desk for deliveries.” He laughed and shook my hand. “Oh, they're probably gonna deliver it right to you. I wrote one for you to say thanks for helping me on my math test.” At this point I didn't really care where it was, or if I ever got the chance to see it. The thought in itself was warming, but to get to the heart of why this Turkey-gram meant so much, you need the whole story:

This same student had his fair share of setbacks. Behaviorally and academically, he struggled. Very cordial and kind when talking one-on-one, he would often zone out, talk to other students, or “explore” the fine inner-workings of writing utensils instead of paying attention to lessons when working alone.

At the end of my first day of interventions with him, it didn't look like we'd be going far that year. I spent as much time that first day getting him to stop cracking jokes and pens as I did rehashing algebra. Nearly every day after, we tried and tried again; working one-on-one after the teacher had given her directions, trying our hardest just to reinforce new material.

I had tried being more lighthearted with him in our one-on-ones, and even took him to other classrooms to get away from possible distractions. He responded better when the pressure of his classmates wasn’t as high, and I think he even grew to enjoy class a bit more. It became a point of familiarity for Kenny, or a checkpoint throughout his day, and mine. When we’d see each other in an earlier class he would always make sure to ask, "You gonna pull me out of math today?"

During those first few weeks, there were definitely moments of hope; good marks on class work, getting problems correct on homework, more participation in class and so on. He even began beating me to the punch with a lot of the practice problems and getting them done without my help. However, the progress often stalled and seemed marginal. There were just as many instances where he would be marked for things like “incorrect”, “incomplete”, “needs to show work”. Even after the third week of learning “how to find the missing side length of triangles”, it was a stretch to get him to identify which side is the hypotenuse. For those like me who shamefully can't remember on their own, a hypotenuse is the side opposite of the right angle.

As our triangle unit was ending, there was a looming two-part test that drew nearer and nearer. I was getting anxious: from my own bad math experiences to the realization that this student wasn't doing well in class, I couldn't help but be a little fearful. The day before the test, while working alone on a review sheet, he could barely answer the first two hypotenuse questions on his own, and even when he did they were incorrect.

I left our class thinking I'd failed him. This happens often to me at school. One day I leave believing I really made a break-through with a scholar, getting them to pick up their character and stay on point with grades, and the next they give up the effort, pick fights, talk back, and lose respect for everyone in the room, including themselves. Kenny could certainly be that kid at times. I assumed the next time we'd see each other it'd be with a fat “F” and a heavy chandelier holding over both our heads for the rest of the year.

It wasn't until he pulled me aside at the end of the next day to tell me how wrong I was:

“Mr. Tortelli, Ms. Reigelmeyer graded my test in class and said I got an A.”

He’s lying, I thought. “Say what?”

“Yeah, she graded it and said I better do just as good tomorrow on the next part.”

No way he passed… let alone aced it?! He cheated! He must have wrote the answers on his hands... something!

He reached to shake my hand. Clean as a whistle.

Meanwhile his teacher, hearing our conversation from her room, stepped out to congratulate the two of us and, more importantly, verify that “He’s telling the truth!”

I can’t talk about the death of Jesus as if I’ve ever witnessed or been part of something so tragic, but I can talk about the loss of hope. The ever pounding questions that rush through my head daily: “Am I getting through to this student?” “Am I a good enough role model?” “Am I the right role model?” “Will I, or even this school, ever be enough for these kids?” In a sense, there is that death: Inspiration, courage, the aforementioned hope. They can all disappear at the first sight of failure. It doesn’t take much for us to fall, but there are moments around you when you realize you’re doing alright.

In seeing Jesus on the cross, he carries his mission to its completion – despite the hardships, failures, and fear he must have faced, he is faithful to the very endFor me, the Turkey-gram itself was great, but more than anything it was a reminder that our work does go to some purpose. Kenny got an “A.” He thanked me, and I am so very grateful. Now a freshman in the High School of Technology one floor above us, four inches taller and about 30 pounds heavier, he continues to thank me at least once a week when he runs up to me on the way to my car after school, smiling ear to ear, and tackling me to the ground with a bear hug, shouting “Mr. Tortilla!”.

The story goes that Jesus died so that others may have a better tomorrow. While we should strive to never give up our hope, it’s reassuring, as I learned, that even if it does die for a day, it can still dawn a better tomorrow.

This reflection based off of an original story of mine, “gratitude in the grind”. You can read that post in it’s original entirety and more on my blog: Danbook

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

The following is a Lenten reflection written by Anna Paige Frein, one of this year's South House Volunteers.

Here we see Jesus being stripped of his clothes symbolizing a stripping of not only his divinity but his human dignity. This is a final moment of humiliation for Christ on his journey to the cross. As the crowds gathered to mock him, He was left exposed and ashamed. Despite this humiliation, Christ continued in silence trusting the path of salvation before Him.

Throughout this past year at St. Sabina Emergency Assistance Department I have encountered clients who are on their own journey of suffering like Christ who have been stripped by the difficulties of the world and have come to a point of feeling exposed and ashamed. Some have been stripped of their income and feel ashamed because they have to use a food pantry to feed their families. Others have been stripped of their possessions and feel shame because they do not have a nice shirt to wear to a job interview. Still others have been stripped of steady employment and feel exposed because they have not been able to pay their rent and are facing eviction.

A few weeks ago a woman came to our food pantry looking for assistance. She had left a domestic violence situation the day before and all she had were the clothes on her back and a few dollars in her wallet. She had been stripped of her home, her relationship, and her self-respect and she did not know who to turn to because she felt too ashamed to ask her family members for help.

Many clients at St. Sabina admit to me that they are reluctant to ask for help because of the sense of shame associated with it, but the real shame today is that we often forget that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We forget how to love others for who they are because we are more concerned with what they have. At the end of the day if you take away money, clothes, possessions, or status then all we have left is our being. It is then that we discover that we are all equal and created in the image of God.

Admittedly, I have not personally felt the shame associated with being stripped of money, possessions, or status like my clients. I grew up in a stable home with parents who could always provide for me. So when I reflect on this station during Lent, I think about the things that I personally need to be stripped of in order to love unconditionally. These things include my pride, self-centeredness, and social prejudices. This helps remind me of our equality and our responsibility to love each other just as Christ taught us.