The Battle of Present and Future

During Urban Immersion Retreats at the Darst Center, we (the retreat facilitators) have a schpill to tell the anxious high school and college students: “Don’t worry about what is next, be here; it’s not your job to know what’s next.” We try to keep groups in the dark as much as possible in regards to the retreat schedule, so they don’t get ahead of themselves and miss out in conversations that are being had in the present. This motto is something that has really been hitting home for me in the last few weeks.

3 months into the my YAV year, and I can’t help but think about what is coming next. Between graduate school applications, trying to network in case I decide to look for a full time position in Chicago, and general life, it has become very easy to lose myself in the preparation for the future.

“Don’t worry about what is next, be here; it’s not your job to know what’s next.”

In case you didn’t know this about me: I don’t like not knowing. I have serious FOMO (fear of missing out), and I have convinced that if I’m not four steps ahead, then I am behind. I don’t when this need to always know started, but I have become quite aware since coming to Chicago.

“Don’t worry about what is next, be here; it’s not your job to know what’s next.”



Those words have starting to become a sense of grounding, especially when the idea of making future plans is so overwhelming that I want to go to the top of the Sears Tower and just scream.

“Don’t worry about what is next, be here; it’s not your job to know what’s next.”

Being here is a once in a LIFETIME chance. Living with a group of people that are like-minded in passions is refreshing. I don’t want to waste a minute of our time together.

“Don’t worry about what is next, be here; it’s not your job to know what’s next.”

As far as preparing for the future: I’ve done all I can. At the end of the week, I will have submitted all my grad school applications. I put forth my best work, and the decision will no longer be in my hands. I have to take solace in knowing that I’ve done my best in preparing for my next step. And until it is time to take my next step…I am here, in Chicago, living the best YAV life I can.

“Don’t worry about what is next, be here;”


Once a Black Knight, Always a Black Knight.

This week has been tough; between a hectic work schedule and getting strep throat, it has just been tough. But this week has been tough for another reason: At the North Davidson High School football game, Mike Lambros, softball coach, mentor, and all around special man, was honored at halftime and (for obvious reasons) I wasn’t able to go. This is a man that only ever wants the best for his students, cared for us both on and off the field. The women that he helped mentor over the course of many many years returned to help honor him, and I couldn’t be there no matter how much I wish I could have.

Before the softball season started my junior year, I realized that the thought of going to practice caused a deep sense of dread, not just some artificial I don’t want to go to practice dread, but rather a dread that was so rooted in my being I couldn’t begin to fathom. I had fallen out of love with the sport. And that’s okay. My parents were supportive, and I knew that I shouldn’t commit to another full season if my heart wasn’t in it. I knew I had to tell Coach about my decision, rather than being expected on that first day of practice and just not showing up. Telling Lambros that I couldn’t play for him anymore was possibly the toughest thing I had to do in high school, but it was the right thing. I was so worried that he would hate me or be disappointed in me, but he knew softball wasn’t my passion, and he was proud of me for listening to my gut.

Committing to a year of service is tough. Having the courage to move away is tough. But I know I am where I need to be. I know that I have a home community that I will forever be a part of. I know that striving for anything less than excellence in everything would be a dishonor to what was instilled in me from my home community. But it’s still tough

Once a Black Knight, Always a Black Knight. YEAH BABY1929447_10690682966_9006_n

Br. David Darst Center

I realized that I hadn’t actually shared my work placement in Chicago, so here it goes:unnamed

I am working at the Br. David Darst Center as a Retreat Facilitator. The Darst Center is a Social Justice Education Center, we host high school and college students in Urban Immersion retreats and provide unique service-learning opportunities. Rather than simply discussing social justice issues in the theoretical, we take students into partner organization that work directly with communities affected by social injustices.

I love my placement. I have a chance to facilitate conversations on the root causes of issues such as poverty, homelessness, and community violence with students who have varied exposure to these topics.

Along with the Urban Immersion Retreats, the Darst Center is a space that can hold community conversations on some of these topics. For example, a few weeks ago we hosted a Speaker Series with CROAR (Chicago Regional Organizing for AntiRacism), a regional partner of Crossroads (the organization that did YAV training at Stony Point Orientation).

Besides facilitating retreats and preparing the space for other events, I am also working with some of the programming (to get exposure to some of the daily tasks that go into working in a non-profit) as well as having an opportunity research Policy-related actions on the different levels of government.

Different Realities

No two people have the exact same experience. Even though two people may witness the exact same event at the exact same time, there could be two totally different interpretations of the event. Past experiences shape a person’s understanding of current events. These same past experiences, as well as factors that an individual has absolutely no control over compile into various realities in the same space.

I recently had a conversation with a woman that progressed into her understanding of relativism as it pertains to religious practices, faith journeys, and the role of religious beliefs in moral and ethical situations. She and I didn’t necessarily agree on many aspects of the conversation, which at the time infuriated me; after a few days of reflection, I realized the reason she and I could not see eye-to-eye was because our worlds that we live in are conflicting. My perspective is that she has been fairly sheltered to some of the things in the world; yet, the same argument could be made about me depending on with whom I am conversing.

I like to think I’m a realist. I have a decent grasp of a lot of the social injustices I witness regularly, and I am enraged by how saturated our society is with systems that perpetuate those injustices. I know that my US American experiences (and my relationships with the systems that perpetuate injustices) are not the norm in US America.

Multiple realities exist. It is only with the acknowledgement that contending realities are valid, can there be progress.

20 minutes…

63rd Street and Woodlawn. An intersection that I am not likely to ever forget.

This morning my fellow YAV’s and I embarked on an observation tour of the Southside of Chicago. Basically we got on a bus and stayed until we were well past the White Sox stadium. After we got off our second bus, we started walking through the edges of Hyde Park, and that’s when I saw it. A man of color started to collapse on his wife, and when I went over to inquire I realized this man was NOT okay. I introduced myself as a First Responder and asked if I could do a Primary and Secondary Assessment so once the EMTs arrived on scene the process would be streamlined.

By this point a small crowd of varying demographics had started to form. A couple of police cars drove by, to ask MY  (predominately white, obviously middle class) group what was going on, not even acknowledging the crowd of people of color surrounding Daniel, and not even bothering to get out of their car to check the scene on their own. It wasn’t until an officer finally got OUT of his car to talk to me did he realize he should probably radio an ambulance.

Because of the intersection, because of the demographics of that neighborhood, there was no sense of urgency for this medical emergency. Daniel was around 65, and his symptoms indicated a stroke. And because we were in a neighborhood occupied by people of color, a bystander was on the phone with 911 for 20 minutes before the ambulance was even summoned…

My heart aches.


(Dis)Orientation and Community

“You see the top of the schedule where it says ‘Orientation’ mark it out and write ‘Disorientation.'” These were the first words I heard at Stony Point Conference Center in Stony Point, New York. More truer words could not have been spoken. During (dis)orientation myself and 66 other YAVs were forced to sit in some discomfort, literally and figuratively (seriously! sitting in straight-backed chairs for 12 hours is not comfortable!). The figurative discomfort was more because of the tough conversations that had to be had. And while those conversations were incredibly important, the thing that sticks out most to me was the development of community.

One of the core tenets of YAV is living in intentional community with one another. Logistically that translates how to live with different people in different environments and not absolutely hate each other at the end of the year. But there is more to developing community than just hanging out with your housemates. I’m talking about developing relationships with other YAVs outside of our site. There are close to 70 Young Adult Volunteers serving this year, so being able to create friendships outside of my site is crucial. It is inevitable that at some point this year I am going to need to talk to someone who is not in my house, but understands what I am going through; I have those connections post-Stony Point.

“Chicago? You know that’s a dangerous city”

Chicago: the home of President Obama and known nationwide for the violence. The title of this blog is a direct quote from an older gentleman in the local coffeeshop. Similar concerns have been made to either my parents or myself over the last seven months since I received my placement. It baffles me that people from my town can move to Charleston, Atlanta, New York City, or even Washington, DC without as much as a blink of an eye or a word of protest. People must think Chicago is in some developing country based on the reactions I get from, not only strangers, but those close to me as well. In an upper-level history class in college, we discussed different European Revolutions and the patterns of all those events. Violence occurs when economic, social, and cultural issues collide. If Chicago is as violent as everyone assumes, maybe, just maybe it’s time to take a good, hard look at the causes, rather than just accepting it as another group’s problem.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to live and work in city, which many people in my area have written off. Its daunting to think that in less than a week, the journey I  have been working towards for a year will finally begin. My to-do list for the next six days keeps growing. From figuring out how to pack a year’s worth of stuff into two suitcases to making sure I get to visit with everyone I need to see before I leave, a week I thought was going to be restful has turned out to be anything but. It’s all starting to become real; I will be living in a new city, with five other people, working at a job that is still unknown. This process has already forced me to learn that you don’t always get answers when you want them and I am diligently trying to work on accepting that fact.

My fundraising is progressing. While it was just as nerve-wracking as my previous post predicted, I am truly honored to have people in my life who want to support me. (Opportunities to give  can be seen here.)