Service Story: Immersion
Clare Connolly ’14
I sit with my hands in my lap and my eyes wander, looking around at the many unfamiliar faces that make up the Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I make eye contact with a classmate and can tell we are thinking the same thing: what are we doing here? How am I supposed to contribute to this meeting with no experience of addiction? My life experiences are probably so different from everyone else’s. As the meeting begins, the facilitator reads the expectations and asks us to reflect on our
week so far.
My week had been anything but usual. I was in my two-week Immersion in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district−infamous for drug access, homelessness, and poverty. I abandoned my luxury items; we slept on the floor and volunteered in soup kitchens, shelters, rehabilitation centers, and more. During the first week, I had the preconceived notion that I needed to “fix” the community’s problems. I felt like an outsider, desperately trying to close the gap between “them” and “me” – but I was approaching my time in the Tenderloin completely wrong.
During my time in the Tenderloin, my biggest obstacle was thinking that I was worlds away, even though I was only twenty minutes from home. I was more similar to the people of this community than I had originally thought. During the second week, I learned to shift my mindset from simply doing “charity” to being with people as a source of support. I was there to smile as they received free lunch; I was there to listen to their life stories.
As students at St. Ignatius, we should all live for the “Magis.” We should all strive to do and be greater. My goal on Immersion was to leave as a better person than I was when I arrived. To my surprise, I accomplished this through listening, not talking or searching for answers. I realized the skill of being present for the individuals in front of me was what really mattered. When I started watching and listening, my mind opened to a new horizon of thoughts that I hadn’t previously contemplated. What do the phrases “men and women with and for others” and “for the greater glory of God” mean to me? I had to decide how I could be a woman for others. I had to decide how to do things for the greater glory of God. Through the religious studies courses and taking advantage of all service opportunities at SI, I understand the meaning of Ignatius’ words.
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