Okay. So I may or may not have a good excuse/s for having not posted in a very long time but let’s not waste time with excuses, shall we?
I just spent the last week in Pennsylvania doing some service at a Felician ministry in the Mooncrest neighborhood outside of Pittsburgh. There are two sisters who run an after-school program in the very depressed neighborhood which is full of kids. However, these children are not “typical” children. These children are the children of drug dealers who regularly do drugs in the house with their children present. These are the children whose mothers have numerous children all by different men. These are the children of persons who leech off the welfare system by having more kids that they could not ever support. These are the kids of parents who really don’t care about them in many sad sad situations.
But, having spent time with these kids, looking beyond the superficials of clothes that may not be washed so well, looking beyond the dirty faces and the scent of “no bath in a few days,” these are “normal” kids. These kids have dreams. These kids cry. These kids feel like any other person or child feels … if not more acutely. These kids deserve love. These kids need love. These kids are not given or shown the love most of us were blessed to have had in our youths.
However, the odds are against them. All their hopes, dreams, and aspirations are set against the stark negativity of their reality. These kids truly live in abject poverty. When many of us would complain about not liking what we have to eat. These kids would and do do anything for a snack pack provided by the local church. These kids never have real childhoods. These children are thrown into a no-so-innocent world of neglect, abuse, and despair. When we are trying to pick where we want to go for college, these kids have the odds stacked against them to even get through high school.
And that is where my sisters come in.
At the Mooncrest AfterSchool program, they are given that meal or snack they need. They are given that quiet space they need to do their homework. They are given that freedom to run around and be kids with other kids while being safe in a neighborhood swarming with drug dealers and delinquents (though Sister told me it has gotten better since they moved in). But most importantly, they are given that love for which they are starved.
These children, regardless of their standing in life, are still able to love and the Lord only knows how much their yearn to be loved. Their most basic need to be loved is apparent when one first meets them. From the child who attaches herself to one of the leaders and is seen the whole week tracking down that person for company to the child who asks you if you can take him home with you so they can spend more time with you. It brings tears to one’s eyes.
I must admit, when I first came to PA I was not sure what this service trip would entail but now that it is over, I am sad that it is over. Luckily, I shall be back in September since I shall be moving to Pennsylvania for my year as a postulant.
I learned this week that I am very sheltered because except for a few isolated experiences, I have never really had an extended experience with such extreme poverty. But I also learned that poverty does not make someone less human or less worthy of love. Not that that was my personal belief but that there are some people who think that that sentiment is true is haunting.
The lesson of this week: Never discriminate with love. Never let prejudices, stereotypes, or other such things determine who “deserves” love and who does not. As Christians, we are called to be Christ’s hands, feet, eyes, mouth, and very heart in the world. We demonstrate our faith and love of Christ in how we treat even the most forgotten. In fact, our love for Him is all the more apparent when we love those who society deigns unworthy or has passed over.
I will probably post again sometime soon but I am tired right now from the loooong week I have had. I have been up today since about 4am. YAY! Looking forward to Mass at SJA once again!
God bless you and Mary keep you!