I’ll start off with a little about me, my name is Marrah Moreland and I am a junior, education major at St. Mary’s University. I am pursuing my degree in education because I love working with children, especially those with special needs. My goal in life is to become a special education teacher and I have to constantly remind myself of this, especially during finals J
Last week I had the awesome opportunity to participate in the 2013 Marianist University L.A Breakout. Let me just put it out there; I have never blogged before and rarely post on Facebook. This is not because I don’t like to share my ideas and opinions with others (hahaha, quite the opposite actually) but because I feel that these types of things are better shared in a closer forum where they can be discussed and not so easily taken out of context. So needless to say I have been hesitant about this whole “blogging” thing.
But, when asked earlier this week at my weekly MLP (Marianist Leadership Program) meeting, “Marrah, can you give the group an overview of your experience at the Marianist Winter Immersion Trip to L.A?” I realized that I was more than ready to share my story and now I am going to “bite the bullet” and share what I have learned from my experience on the web!
That said, I pray that God will give me words to describe this amazing experience in the best way possible.
Let me start by saying that this immersion experience was so much more than a “trip to L.A”. This awesome journey has helped me to deepen my faith, broaden my horizons, and expand my idea of service to include solidarity. Most importantly, it has given me a renewed hope for man-kind.
If any of you out there are like me you might be asking, “So immersion is like the same as physical “service” right….?”
Well not really….
Personally I have always enjoyed being of service to others. But, on this journey I learned that I have entirely too much pride in doing so. I came to the realization that while participating in any kind of service I usually stuck to my side of the “bread line” and really have always taken the “let ME serve YOU” approach. This really came to light when our group visited the Catholic Worker House in downtown L.A. For the first time we were not physically “serving” people that day; we were there to interact with and be in solidarity with the disenfranchised of “Skid Row”.
Well, that morning I skipped breakfast; opting to sleep in five minutes later instead. So, later that afternoon when I was handed a steaming hot plate of tuna surprise for lunch, I was eager to dig in. Food in hand, I began looking for a place to sit in the open courtyard. I scanned the faces seated in the cold at picnic tables and finally asked a couple if I could sit with them. They answered “yes” with almost no hesitation and like family, included me in their conversation right away. We talked about everything from traveling, to struggles, to faith. Through our conversation I learned that Gail and John had been married for thirty-three years and had been homeless for fifteen. It was beautiful to see their honest love and admiration for each other despite all of the hardships they had endured. Together they had survived, hunger, homelessness, extreme temperatures, and the loss of their family. Surprisingly what was most difficult to bear according to Gail and John was the complete indifference from people that passed them on the street every day. I will always remember John saying, “I see this nicely dressed man every day. He just looks right through me or pretends I am not there at all, and he keeps on walking”. After saying this he let out a light chuckle that did not seem to share the feeling with his heavy downcast eyes.
Along with making two new friends in a relatively short period, I learned though my time spent at the Catholic Worker that to be in solidarity with someone means to say “I see you and I respect you” with your presence. Now when I hear the term disenfranchised or homeless on my daily walk, I won’t think first about what a terrible “issue” it is in America but, Gail’s warm smile and John’s quick wit. Two people who are my friends, who just happen to be homeless.
God has a way of finding you when you ask him to. Reflecting on last week, I remember writing an intention at the beginning of our journey. On my slip of paper I quickly scribbled my prayer that I would be able to see God’s face in everyone that I encountered during our time in L.A. During my many experiences on this breakout I met so many amazing people who have all made a profound impact on my life in one way or another. Needless to say, God answers prayers.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in this life-changing opportunity and I would highly recommend this trip to any member of the Marianist Leadership Program who is looking for a better understanding of what it means to live out our Marianist charsim. For those that of you that are not members of the MLP I challenge you to go out and make an effort to truly “see” and respect people for who they are, children of God.
To my whole new family of Marianist Students! I had such a great time meeting each of you and am honored to be a part of such a wonderful network of amazing scholars centered around one model of faith, Mary. Thank ya’ll for your openness, love, and support J
Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to the benefactors of this immersion trip, without whose support this journey would not have been possible, to my parents for taking a leap of faith and allowing me to have this amazing experience, and especially to the campus facilitators (Danny, Chris, and Mo) who so selflessly took time to plan out this whole adventure.
May the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit be glorified in all places, through the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen.