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....?