Saturday, March 24, 2012

The time has come....

Well, here I am. Its the Saturday before I move back home to good ol'Kearney, Mo, at the cutest coffee shop in Bridgeport... writing one of my last blogs (well, until my next adventure......) This week is my last week at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation! I will be driving back home on Friday. Such a bitter sweet feeling. To say this experience has changed my life.... is an understatement. There are so many things that I have learned and that I have realized. Situations I never imagined being in and feelings felt that I never thought possible.

RECAP of the past 7 months (list form):
  • Cubs game
  • Solider field  (NIU game)
  • Circle training in Dayton, OH
  • Teaching a girl how to read -- (somewhat successful, somewhat not)
  • Tutoring a boy for his GED (ummm kind of a success, but he is back in jail now)
  • Tutoring a boy in his community college classes (success)
  • Meeting with a boy to "prepare," him for GED courses
  • Trip to Selina, OH and Dayton with some of the boys to see the art show titled, "Kin Killing Kin." Such a moving and wonderful experience-- Seeing men from the hood, turn into little boys on a farm.
  • Authentic delicious Mexican food-- best Taco's I have ever had and Tamales I have ever had in my life
  • Explain why I am here... "You haven't received anything from society yet, you are young. Why are you volunteering? Most volunteer's do it to give back, but if you haven't received, how do you give if you haven't received yet?"--anonymous boy
  • corrupt education
  • segregation
  • discrimination
  • corrupt police
  • Halloween regulation
  • Swap O'Rama-- craziest flea markets I have ever been to
  • Death-- RIP David
  • Gang violence-- (Everyday)
  • Shootings.... especially with the weather getting warmer
  • learning gang lines so I can drive boys down the "safe," streets.
  • Christmas
  • Starvation
  • Trader Joe's donations once a week
  • Desperation
  • fluffy scrambled eggs-- I have been dubbed the best scrambled eggs maker
  • Teaching the boys how to play ping-pong theeeen getting killed playing them after
  • Getting money taken out of my purse
  • Having one of the best Birthdays I have had in a LONG time
  • Going to the Cook County Juvenile Delinquent center-- once a week
  • Learning how to play spades like a pro... from kids in Juvi
  • Drugs
  • Getting lost in Chicago... at least once a week
  • Learning the public transportation system (man I will miss it SOO much!)
  • Love
  • Going to a women's prison to meet and visit with a woman who was given life without parole as a Juvenile.
  • Following (the above's) case, meeting with her legal team as the work towards clemency. (Her hearing is at the beginning of April!!!)
  • Understanding (the above's) story
  • Shattered hope's and dreams
  • Making hope's and dreams
  • A trip to get someone a new license where I was the minority (by far)
  • becoming a mother for the afternoon, taking two boys to get there Senior picture outfits
  • Being declared a "God-Sister," and a stylist/manager for an upcoming rap artist
  • Stories, stories and more stories.
There are so many stories in this neighborhood. So many circumstances and lessons. I feel like I could sit and talk about Chicago for hours. To wrap it up into a quick sentence or two, or to even try to explain my time here is hard. You can tell, but you can not cause a feeling. Or at least the feelings I have about being here. So, I will  just stick with... It has been an amazing time and experience :)

So, whats next eh? That is a great question... Who wants to buy me a house in Kansas City so that I can open it as a home/temporary living situation for boys who live in Chicago? With this house, PBMR can send me two or three boys at a time. They can get out of the Chicago neighborhood and actually make something of themselves (new rant). Even if you want to get out of the neighborhood here you have about a 5% success rate. If you are gang related, you cannot take the public transportation to a job. There is to much risk of being jumped and owning a car is obviously not possible (legally). Get a job close to home? Can't, if they have any kind of a record, good luck. Go to school? Nah, the community college's are basically an equivalent to my high school experience. And at this point in our country, an associates is basically the same as a high school diploma. What do these boys want? A place where they can get out, away from this world a world that makes it nearly impossible to make it. Or simply to walk down a street, any street without the threat of a drive by. If they can get out, go somewhere else and become successful in a safer environment, they could actually be successful. Then once it gets started it could grow. The one who live there first move out to their own home/apartment, become mentors for the new ones coming in and and and.... see, it could work. So.... like I said, who wants to buy a house in Kansas City with a couple of bedrooms? And a little bit of funding to get it started.  I can find them jobs! I can make it work! It could work...... hey I can still dream right?

Reality: Currently the job search is ON. Case manager positions here and there. A couple of interviews set up. So, time shall tell. In the meantime, I will be moving back in with some fabulous roommates, my parents :)

But, I'm 23... only 23 and I have so much life to live and so many dreams to live out. I feel like I am just at the beginning.... So, stay tuned.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Filled with Joy

There is nothing special about today. Nor was there anything special about the past week. Today I am simply feeling so blessed and beside myself. (even though after you read this post you will think I am crazy as to why I feel blessed and happy). 

I have decided that I will be ending my time here at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation at the end of March-- in two weeks. It was definitely a hard decision for me, however I have that feeling that it is time to move onto something new. Its that invisible wall that I believe I have hit, and some new doors opening elsewhere. But just a crack. I can't see where they lead and I don't know which one to choose. So, that in itself is an adventure that I feel so blessed and excited to take. 

One of the hardest things that I have had to do is tell the boys that I will be leaving shortly. Some just look at me and say, alright cool. Others are bummed and ask why? That lingering question... why? When I explain the why to my friends, family and co-workers its easy. But explaining it to them is much harder. 

To friends, family and co-workers-- I am leaving because I miss that physical sense of support. I miss my friends and family. I am unsure with what more I could do here. If I jump on a new project now, I would feel guilty leaving mid-way through (June/July/August). And currently here in Chicago, to be blunt, I don't have a lot of interaction with others my own age outside of work. (Though some of these things are petty I realize, they are also the things that keep me motivated and going. Without them I feel lonely and so unmotivated that I don't even recognize myself some days.)

If I try to say all those things to them-- the straight up answer, especially the friends and family part.... 
Actually, I told one of them that I missed my friends and family. And how I felt like I didn't have a whole lot of that here... His reply--- "Yeah, but we are your friends and family!" (didn't see that one coming, my heart may have dropped a bit.) 

It makes me feel guilty sometimes. I have an escape from this destructive neighborhood. Even living 10 minutes from where I work, on the weekends I escape to different parts of the city just to walk and explore. Yet, the kids that I work with, ones that have lived here their entire lives have never even been downtown. I have a phone that I can make phone calls... endless ones... to friends and family found all over the country. I have all this support. I am blessed with so many things. I feel a little guilty picking up and leaving.

I knew that this day would come. That the countdown would eventually take place. And I supposed I assumed I would have feelings such as the ones I am expressing. But living them is so much different than assuming. 

Every change we make in our lives, every step we take has to have some kind of challenge right? (or is that just my luck, because I feel like I am challenged with everything I want to do... its never easy for me). If there were no challenge where would the adventure be right? (At least that's what I keep telling myself!) 

So, as I live out these last 2 weeks here at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, I won't be counting down the days. Instead I will be counting the blessings that I have, looking for the things I have learned and  listening to the stories that walk through that door. I can't change the world, but I can do good for those who ask right? 

Monday, March 12, 2012

As of lately...

I used to be so good at updating and writing on here once a week. Clearly I have lacked in that area. There just hasn't been a whole lot to write about. Maybe I am just used to everything going on around me? I have accepted what happens here on the South side as normal. Reality: its not normal from where I come from. Not even close.

This past weekend we had our 1st Annual, Precious Blood Fundraising luncheon! It was definitely a success. Over the past month or so there have been so many preparations for this thing. (It's nice that it is finally over!) From creating all the invitation things, finding donations, making center pieces and little things here and there, it is finally done!

At the event I started to feel very thankful and in awe of so many things. We had the event in Rensselear, IN. A half way point between Chicago and Dayton. (where some major connections and contacts are found). Most of the people who attended have never really been to our center. Many knew a run down of what the, "cause," was. I knew maybe 10 people in the room, at best. Yet, I was surrounded by so much support for the center that I worked at. As speakers talked about the center I started to feel a sense of pride and excitement. As Fr. Kelly spoke about the center in such a manner of care and tenderness, then one of the boys got up and spoke of what the center has done for him. I couldn't help but feel proud and thankful for these past 7 months here at Precious Blood. As one of the boys stood there and spoke, then invited two others up to answer questions from the audience I was so impressed by how honest and open they were to these people, strangers to them. And then I began to realize all the things that I have learned from these boys, what set me apart from the audience. I have gotten the chance to be friends with these boys, to learn their worries, happiness, their lives. Though now I am used to what they have to say, the people in the audience were shocked. As one lady put it, "it is such a tragedy what these boys go through, this is such a great cause to support." They were so happy to be at the event and help in some way, even if it is just with money. Support and money can go a long way and to know that we are making connections and relationships with others will only make the center a stronger center. So, over all it was absolutely a successful event to say the least.

But back to the realizations. Just reflecting on this whole luncheon and looking at myself, seeing that I have become used to the lives down on the south side is both great, but kind of sad. The people at the luncheon were moved and impressed by the different things that the center does and provides. I agree it does great things. When I first got to Chicago I thought and still think the same things, but I never sit and really think about it anymore. I hear of shootings going on, I hear of struggles that some of the boys talk about. I know there is gang banging going on near by, I know that there is a women's shelter down the street that works with once abused women, I know that there is a Catholic worker house down the street that opens its doors 4 mornings a week for breakfast for the poor. I know all these things. I see some. And I do whatever I can do. But what I do, is just what I do, its just another day. I am used to these things and have granted them normal. THEY ARE NOT NORMAL. Kids killing kids, abuse and beatings, starvation ect ect ect. They aren't normal. Just like at the luncheon when people were moved by some of the experiences shared by the youth. People know that these things exist. I am not naive enough to believe that they don't (obviously). But the fact that these things go on everyday, everywhere and society lets it happen. I'm not saying that the world should be happy and that everyone should be nice to each other (because that will probably never happen unfortunately). There will always be cruel things that happen. But what if people that were "better off," stopped turning their heads away from the cruel things happening in our country? What if only 10% of them did? What would that look like? I'm not preachin or anything... I'm just saying. What if....?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Motherly duties? Nahhh God-sister duties....

So, its been awhile. I can honestly say I have been avoiding my blog for a while. there hasn't been a whole lot going on. Yet, there has been, but I have had a negative attitude and chose not to write about such things.

Its been pretty quiet at the center. Not a whole lot going on, yet there is. Programs starting up; theater, air-brushing and screen printing sessions. In collaboration with the Peace coalition (a group in Back of the Yards that works with all the non-profits in the area) these programs are "brought in" and we provide kids for the programs. Some pay the kids to attend, and some may lead to jobs for them. Overall it provides a skill for the kid. A skill they can use, or a skill to help them apply for a job or simply a commitment that they can achieve. The afternoons/after school hours are a little hectic with people running all over the place using our center as their classroom. It can be fun, and it can be... honestly a little annoying as well.

I sit back some days and still think... what am I doing... what should I be doing right now? Earlier this week, like clock work one of the boys came in (3:00, as usual), to come back give me a hug and sit down to talk about his day. Every day he does this. And everyday I sit there and wait for him. This boy is probably one of my favorites (good thing none of the boys know that this blog exists because they would be so nosey to know who my favorites were haha). But this boy in particular has a life that I can't even sit and image how he keeps going each day with this smile and spirit that makes everyone around him happy. I don't think I have seen him in a bad mood... ever. He came in earlier this week and needed someone to take him shopping, for his senior year picture. (The area where the stores are at, he cannot walk to by himself because it crosses into the Hispanic gang lines. Though he is not affiliated with a gang, it doesn't matter, he's black and they would shoot or mess with anyone and just assume.) So, I took him. No one will mess with me, a white girl haha. So off we went... to the local Forman Mills in search for some swag (new clothes). As we went off in search for a new outfit, together we put together two good lookin outfits, I was dubbed a "God-sister" (you know... we aren't blood brother/sister, but we are brother and sister by God). And I have been given approval of having good taste and good style. Bravo! As the boy checked out and payed, I stood off to the side and waited, making a quick phone call. As we got into the car, he began to tell me that the lady checking him out thought that I was his music manager, helping him pick out new outfits for his tour we would be going on, he is an upcoming rap star. I looked all important on my phone, waiting and I was white. So... I am a God-sister, a great stylist and a music manager... can I add those to my resume?

That whole experience got me to think about my role at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. That day I felt like a mother, helping her kid pick out a senior picture outfit. Some of these boys come to me just to talk. I haven't tutored in a long time, but those boys still come by to tell me how they are doing in school. They don't really need a tutor because they are keeping up with there studies now. Times are slow, and I don't have a whole lot to do anymore. Is that because maybe I have made an impact on these kids? At the beginning when I first got there, did I put something in there head? Maybe a thought, or hope or drive to achieve their goals? I would like to think that just maybe some of this is true... heck maybe I am totally off and I'm just crazy? (ok, no I know I'm crazy.. but, maybe its different this time?)

There are a lot of things that I do or maybe stand for that I don't notice. Physically I am not doing a whole lot. But maybe my presence has made more of a difference than I think? (lets think positively and go with YES!!!) My next task is to figure out a possibility of how I can make that last longer, after I leave? I feel as if my time here in Chicago may be done. I am not sure what more to do... what more I can do without living here indefinitely and getting involved in projects that will last longer than just a month or two? Are there any jobs in Kansas City, home, that can amount to the work I am doing here? I mean, eventually, unfortunately I have to make money at some point and pay off those nagging school loans. I have to grow up and take on some responsibility right? So the next step... when do I take it, and which step do I take? (This is just a battle I have been having in my mind for the past... oh month or so....) possibilities are endless, yet not quite in reach. We'll see... that's what your 20's are for right? Being confused and trying to figure yourself out?

Well, I have some wandering to do... tis the weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shawshank Redemption?

Last night at Juvi I was almost brought to tears by a young mans hope and voice... that's right... his voice, I was serenaded with Micheal Jackson's, "Will you be there." (Some of you may know it as the Free Willy song....) For whatever reason that song brings chills to me anyways buuut, this boy just started singing it and I was about 2 seconds from tears (p.s. tears don't come easily to me.) Last night was different than other nights in Juvi. We usually start with the girls units then work our way up to the 4th floor or Omega units. But, we stopped by the medic unit where we ran across two very interesting and respectful young men. I got into a pretty awesome conversation with a drug addict 18 year old boy. He was brought in on parole violation and had just recently started using Heroin. He is a new Heroin user, so his addiction isn't as strong (but I mean it doesn't take much to be addicted to that stuff). It was so great talking to him though. He finally hit the wall, he found himself and wants more. He wants more out of his life and actually wants to live it. He has a list of goals and ideas. He wants so much... everything he was saying he was just so energetic and happy, with a smile on his face. He wants to live now...... Totally Legit night... So thankful to be present at that moment, and able to sit and listen to such a strong and willful testimony.....

Today I visited the women's prison in Dwight, Illinois with Sister Donna. Donna has been in contact with an inmate there for the past year or so. This women is asking/petitioning for clemency. (A new word in my vocabulary now haha) Before going there of course I was prepped with the story. Long story short, she was abused till her teens. As a young child she was used for drug trafficking by her father (her father sending his 5/6 year old to deliver drugs). As a teen she joined a gang and she killed two young men from another gang, 20 years ago. (As you may be reading this right now.... you probably think I'm crazy or, you may think I am by the end of this post.... I wouldn't blame ya) Before meeting her... I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that she had killed two young men and now she was petitioning for clemency (she was given life without parole, tried as an adult at the age of 15). By the end of a two hour visit, dang.... they would be stupid to keep her IN prison. She has grown up and become such and amazing, inspirational women. Her story could save so many youth before its to late. This women has accepted her crime and consequences. She has been in prison for the past 20 years. She has become a mentor for many women in prison and even youth, even though she resides behind locked doors. She has made something of herself, gained respect, learned life skills, has faith so strong. Who am I to say that she should stay in her cell the rest of her life? She sat, talked and accepted me as if I were an old friend, sharing with me whatever I wanted to know. I don't really know how to explain it....

This is where I struggle. In this ministry, prison ministry. I struggle with "what people deserve." I realize a crime is a crime and people need there time to sit and think about what they have done. Consequences should be paid. But.... in this women's case, tried as an adult at the age of 15, and given life without parole... I don't know about that. I don't know about a lot of things. I honestly struggle with prisons and juvenile detention centers. I wish there were something else, a different way, other than locking children up in brick rooms for hours on hours. I struggle with the conversations that I have where a child talks about how he/she wants to change but doesn't know how, or gives up. I struggle with what I CAN do.... who am I to give advice right? I've never been in there shoes right?

Sometimes... all they need is someone to listen, someone to cheer for them. Even if they leave juvi, then come back a month later. They still want that cheerleader, that positive conversation. They want someone to listen to them. And guess what.... I can do that. The power of presence is so ridiculously cool.

And as I re-read this post... I realize that none of this really makes any sense at all.... but... alas this is what is on my mind... my crazy girl, ridiculous, most of the time clueless, still figuring myself out... me. But I like her....

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012... Bring it on

As the new year has set in, I cannot help but think where I was exactly a year ago.... Literally in a different world. I would have never DREAMED I would be sitting in Chicago, on a Friday morning enjoying a latte after a busy 3 days of circle training. 2011 was a year of ehhhhh confusion and roller coasters. This time last year, I was gearing up for my last semester of college, plowing through all nighters to finish nasty capstone papers, getting myself out of stupid trouble and making memories with best friends I was blessed with in college. I miss those people every day. During that last semester I was stressing about my summer and year to come. Was I going to be out of the country for two years? It was a waiting period that drove me caaarazy! Slowly but surely I accepted a sweet internship with Youth Volunteer Corps as a summer coordinator working with youth and volunteering at various non-profits throughout Kansas City. Then the possibility of being a full time volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers became real and eventually I made my way to the Windy City! As I have always had this itch to live in the city of Chicago I made it! I got out of Kearney, Mo! I was on my own adventure to Chicago! As much as I thought everything would be awesome, I didn't prepare myself for the past months. At all..... but how could I? And from there my blog begins at the beginning, no need for me to repeat myself ;) As I sit and reflect how the past has impacted where I am today, I don't regret anything. I am so happy for where I am now..... Cheers to 2012 and the possibilities in the future... wherever that will take me!

So, a little catch up/rewind. The past three days our center held a circle training for youth from our local neighborhood public schools. I was one of the, "circle keepers." (Actually I didn't have to many responsibilities.... which is good because I got a refresher and picked up so much more this time around.) The ultimate goal of this idea was to give power and knowledge to these youth, the knowledge of circles. By training them we hope that they take circles back to their schools. Just thinking of the possibilities of how they can use these techniques in their school could be HUGE!

Reminder: Circles can be used for an array of things. You could have a circle to honor someone, confront a family problem, conflict/resolution, (I'm totally blanking on the right word) crime resolution ect. The possibilities are truly endless. Circles give everyone a chance to share what they are, what they are thinking, it gives someone a voice in an environment in which they feel safe to share in. (Again I could go on so much longer on what circles are and do.... call me, I'm not going to bore you with jib jabberin on here about it. Lets get to the good stuff.)

As the last day came, we asked that the kids group off and create a circle in which they could actually take back to their school. What would the problem be, what questions would be asked, ect. So..... time OUT... ask yourself what kind of problems you had in high school.... ummmm mayyyyybe bullying, not getting enough playing time on the field in your sport of choice, bad lunch room food blah blah blah. Here were their problems/questions/thoughts and comments on questions: I wouldn't send my child to that school because its to dangerous, people pull the fire alarm to start a fight in the hallways, if you get through the hallway without getting yelled at/confronted its a miracle, the security guards are gang banging sometimes, the security guards are no help, there aren't enough security guards, just because there is a metal detector doesn't mean there aren't any weapons in the school (hellooo combination lock with a shoe lace tied to it... ouch), kids getting on the bus, kids getting off the bus to violence because a certain bus stop = a certain "gang stop," sometimes there is peace in the school, but the minute you walk out the door of the school, kids turn on each other because they are in different gangs. I could go on..... but I won't. The point I guess I am trying to get to is not, they have so much more to worry about at their age than I ever did when I was their age (which is true), but the point is, they have no escape. THAT is there life, THAT is there education. How do you put a stop to any of those things. One person shared that even 5 years ago, gangs were just like clubs, people were just a part of them... it wasn't as bad as it is now. I mean yeah back 5 years people were killed ect. But NOW, everything is worse, people are more desperate and way more violent.

The training taught me a lot, and got me to think about things on a different level. As these kids got more comfortable and shared more, I was able to listen and learn from them. I was able to see their struggles, make a picture, see the looks on their faces when describing a scary run in with gang members, just because they were laughing while they were talking, they stared at the floor the whole time, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. 18 years old. I could sit here and feel sorry for the youth, but that's just a waste of time. By meeting and listening to the 12 youth who made it to the training, it gives me hope. Just with these 12 I saw courage and strength. I saw hope. There are kids out there who are looking for a way out, are even making there way out. But have a hard time completely getting out, because they care and want to help those they are leaving behind. By giving them the tool of, "Circle training," just maybe, they will use it, they will call back to our center and ask us for help or tell us about a successful circle? The possibilities are endless and I love that feeling.

The past three days have been an eye opener and closure for me all at the same time. Instead of living two lives, like I felt I was for the past while, with that gap slowly closing to make it one, the past three days may have just closed it indefinitely. I feel as if all is one. My experience here is definitely one of a kind, but its mine. As my two lives have finally become one, I can move forward a lot stronger. Just like the kiddos and their possibilities being endless..... so are mine.

So.... here's to 2012; taking chances, speaking out a little bit more and making a difference (oh and actually maybe exercising a bit more haha) Bring it on 2012.....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tis the Season


I learned this year how much Christmas really means to me. This year I was the one coming home to my family. To make it back for the best two days (Christmas Eve and Christmas). I've said before, I come from a big family. One of three and extended families on both side, huge and awesome. This Christmas I realized how unique my family is and how blessed I am.

The week leading up to my departure was filled with quite a bit in such a short time. I encountered real life, "Mean Girls," and got to do my first circle! By myself! I walked in a little intimidated.... 7th grade girls ughh. By the end, I decided I won em over, no questions about it. It reminded me about what 7th grade was like... geeze, good luck. I feel like those are the years you just keep going..... kids are mean. The following two days were filled with wrapping AXE cologne kits, and hoodies and decorating the center. Oh and bagging up 250ish bags of candy. The cologne and hoodies were for Wednesday night circle/our centers Christmas for the boys. I'm pretty sure I went home both Tuesday and Wednesday smelling like cologne haha

Our center and Kolby House put together bags for kids in Juvi each Christmas. That way the kids in Juvi get something over the holidays, otherwise they would get nothing. Early in the week Sr. Donna and I had to go drop of bags to get them approved by Juvi, for letting us hand out bags. The candy bag was approved. However, a bag with: toothpaste, a tooth brush, short socks, and some kind of soap was not approved. Apparently tooth brushes can be chiseled down into a spear of some kind, creating a weapon to stab people and socks can be turned into a device to hang yourself.... reallllly? So, candy it is this year I guess? Dumb.

Tuesday night I went into Juvi to kick it. Usually the courts try to get as many kids home before Christmas as possible. So, numbers were down. Well.... I guess you could say that. That night I met a kid that I can pinpoint what, but he had some kind of mental disability/just.... wasn't all there. Played some Uno with him and tried to talk but, wasn't to successful. At the end of the night, on the way home I couldn't help but think about him. Why was he there? Whatever crime he committed I am betting he was taken advantage of, clearly without him knowing. He was doing someones dirty work, and I am betting he couldn't tell right from wrong? I can't assume to much... I guess just a possibility? (hardly)

At one point in the week one of the doors in our center got locked and we didn't have a key for that door. Of course behind that door were all of the Christmas presents. When I confronted the problem, it was kind for shrugged and I was told to go get one of the boys to help get it, "unlocked." By unlocked..... ehhh basically pick the lock. And after picking away, and kicked it in a bit, the door was opened. I've seen it done a few times now, I may just inherit this new trait haha I mean, it may come in handy some day. So.... as the worry of Christmas being locked behind a door was apparent, it quickly disappeared by breaking into the room! Hey if you got the skill, might as well use it for a good cause!

Finally, Wednesday came. After running around getting a sweet massage (a present for Christmas), and then getting some legit tamales for lunch and good conversation with some girls, finally one last thing to do, Christmas for the boys. We had dinner catered by an awesome Kolby House volunteer! Brisket yummmm. Off to circles, where the theme was, "What does Christmas mean to you?" As a rule, what's said in circle, stays in circle. But, the biggest theme was, "togetherness and family." All week between conversations with some girls, kids in Juvi, and conversation in Circle.... the theme of togetherness and family were beaming everywhere I looked. Some kids down on the South side never had a tree for Christmas, or the star at the top was considered a gang symbol rather than a guide for Mary and Joseph and the 3 wise men. Presents were nothing but a "real meal." Hopes of seeing family were the true present. Last post I talked about how I felt as if I lived in two different worlds sometimes. How I have my family life, a simple, safe, blessed life vs. the streets of the Ghetto, a life of violence. Two, obviously very different environments right? Well, maybe where I thought these two environments are very much crazy different.... guess what? They are pretty similar as well. If you talked with anyone in my family they would tell you that presents aren't really that big of the deal. Its about being together with everyone, talking, eating tamales and burritos, or ham and potatoes and simply being with each other is all that really matters. Very similar "themes," that were shared in circle with the boys. So, as I struggled with these two different worlds... things like this make it easier an easier to see my world as one, or helps me see that they aren't so much different. Amen to that!

So, as presents were handed out that night, I packed and literally had to sit on my suitcase to zip it up for my flight home and I have lived through the Christmas eve/Christmas madness and got to meet my new nephew/Godson, I have nothing but a smile on my face. I couldn't be more thankful this Christmas season :) Cheers to the Christmas season!