This was the year that I never wanted and never thought that I would need. here is nothing like God’s timing.
In my own timeline, I would’ve gone on a mission this past September, but with the way things worked out, I will be going approximately a year later. God has a funny way of working for your greater good.
I can honestly say now that I can’t imagine myself anywhere else during this time. I feel like as lay people we are constantly questioned as to why we are doing service for a year or more after college. But honestly, there is a value in what we are doing that is too hard to explain simply through words.
As a black person deeply connected to my Caribbean roots, being here at The Father McKenna Center has allowed me to understand the life that is living and growing up as an African American person in America. It is hard to explain to someone not in the black experience, but it was a side that I myself had been shielded from.
Being here has introduced me to the good, the bad, and the ugly of what has been done, and continues to be done, to our communities. We are now here, seeing the aftermath. Being here has also allowed me to understand that homelessness does not fall into one singular box; instead, it is a wide spectrum of different circumstances that can provide the atmosphere for any person to be homeless.
Anything can happen to anyone. One experience I would like to share is that of Anthony (name changed for privacy). He was studying to get his master’s in Biochemistry and surprisingly he was not able to continue because of COVID. He was let go during the epidemic and, because of that, he was no longer able to pay for school and the dormitory he lived in. With no close family or friends to turn to in his time of crisis, he ended up homeless. This is just one example of how this can happen to any of us.
I feel like for so long I was chasing the want and the desire to be abroad, forgetting that even though we are a “first world country,” we are also in a state of emergency. This country has failed people experiencing homelessness, addiction, and mental illness for so long. Just at The Center we face and address all of these issues and so many more that aid in feeding the lifestyle many of our men are living. This experience here has reminded me of these realities. When you live your life in a bubble, you fail to see the realities of this world, and I truly believe that seeing those true realities is where you find God. And the true meaning of love and compassion. The men here have shown such compassion towards me and to one another. I find it really beautiful to see the men lower their guards as they come into this space. To see the companionship that they share with one another as they open up. It creates both companionship and community. With COVID, I didn’t think I’d be able to see that in my time here but I have.
As good-natured people, it is in our nature to help. It can be so easy to just give free handouts because we think it is the right thing to do. In the end, it only makes us feel good about ourselves. But, The Center has taught me how that could be more harmful than it is helpful. It does not benefit the community as a whole and can create an unhealthy sense of dependency. Now, I find other ways to be helpful and ask myself if, at this moment, “Is my interaction helpful or harmful?” Even though I still plan on going abroad as an Overseas Lay Missioner, I truly believe that through this year, I am going with a new set of eyes.