Over Spring Break I had the privilege of traveling with four students to Louisville, KY where we spent the week participating in a poverty immersion program. During this week we got a tiny taste of the way Americans living on the poverty line eat, sleep, and work every day of their lives. Certainly it is not possible to “simulate” poverty since the psychological benefit of knowing we could go home at the end of the week kept us going. But we learned a lot. We reflected on our lives, on the lives of others, and on our faith. We also changed a lot. I think it’s safe to say that all of us who went on the trip feel transformed by the experience.
I asked each of the students to share their reflections on the trip by writing an article for my Chaplain’s blog. This first reflection is by Jake McLean, a first year student, whose comedic genius kept us rolling in laughter all week and whose patience lasted until he was given a computer baby to raise….and that baby (his “corazón”) demanded to be fed all…night…long. Thanks for sharing yourself and your thoughts with us, Jake.
“I Prefer the Term Urban”
A blog post by Jake McLean
This poverty immersion week was eye-opening and stressed me out to a point of extreme anger. I went almost 4 days with no shower, very little to eat, and completely had the time of my life.
I grew up surrounded by poverty, but because of the best parents a kid could ask for I had no idea that I had grown up around that. I was always nervous going through “sketchy” neighborhoods and seeing people who appeared dangerous. I lived in a neighborhood just like that and saw people just like that and realized that I was completely ignorant. These people are trying to make a living and support their families, and I’m judging the hell out of them. This past week changed all of that.
I have a whole new respect for my parents who dealt with some of the struggles that I simulated over the last week, and for all the people with families that have to do the same.
Meeting with a man from the Garden I worked at gave me some insight on what the neighborhood was like, what it would take to change things around there, and how just to be happy with what you have. After meeting with him, it is safe to say that I have changed my outlook on a lot of things. Furthermore, I want to help communities like that. I want to be able to create something better for many people, like the man I met was doing with the community garden.
- I appreciate showers on a whole new level
- I appreciate my parents and families who go through this.
- I take for granted the food I eat
- I don’t need as much as I thought I did
- I just throw money out the window that could go towards something more reasonable.
Ultimately, the work I did through this program has changed my outlook on a lot of things. It was such a liberating experience helping out, and finding out how to better other communities.
Anytime that the five of us were together, we reflected on the work we were doing, the conditions in which we were living, and trying to figure out what we could do. I got to know the three of the five people that I didn’t already know well. I can honestly now call them my family for all the stuff we went through. You guys helped me stay sane during what felt like years, even though it was only a few days.
Not only did I get to get to know others, I got to talk out my story. I was able to find out who I am and who I want to be. That was a huge benefit to this trip for me and I just don’t think I could have gotten the same experience anywhere else.