Walking the Walk

I didn’t get put in a chokehold, but I did get called fat pretty much every day.

They don’t tell you that part, even when you sign up to be “ruined for life” as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps motto states.

Frankly, I hope they pick up Pope Francis’ words I read this week in The Atlantic: to serve the poor you will be “bruised, hurting and dirty.”

I couldn’t think of three better words to describe my year in JVC New Orleans. To be fair, I would add: “music, free food, cheap booze.” It wasn’t all bad. I was definitely still dirty, though.

But it was hard.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I felt lonely, isolated in a new community, a new region of the country, ravaged by natural disasters and man-made catastrophes that have lasted generations. I had literally zero frame of reference for the experiences the city had been through, its complex history, or its amazing people.


Upper 9th Ward, August 2007

The type of sustained commitment, day in and out, was at times achingly difficult. It is not just a job, but a lifestyle, a shockingly revolutionary one in the face of what our culture tells us is ‘appropriate.’

“JVC holds to the same belief that true service takes risks and works directly with the impoverished.” It was a risk, but not without reward.

Although far from perfect, JVC taught me to see people. To recognize, as Andrew says in the article, that

Somewhere along the way, those that he served stopped being “the homeless,” the conceptual, faceless mass that most Americans see when looking at society’s most disadvantaged. The homeless had become people, individuals whose names he knew and life stories he had learned.

We may not prefer to admit it, but Poor is hard to look at. Homeless is hard to look at. Addicted is hard to look at. Deformed is hard to look at. Deeply Depressed is hard to look at.

What JVC, and now Pope Francis,“is saying is not new, this is the Catholic Church’s teaching. He’s doing what Jesuits always do. Jesuits get gritty with it.”

To get gritty, to (somewhat) quietly do the work of living into the ideals of service and humility, to allow yourself to be changed by those people so often cast off. That is what I was taught.

And what I continue to learn.


The Atlantic article and the Daily Prompt got me thinking…random kindness is good, but not at the cost of intentionality.

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One thought on “Walking the Walk

  1. Pingback: A little mind-twister on random kindnesses | Rob's Surf Report

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