Free Hugs

January 10, 2013

Today I learned all about the Catholic Worker. The Catholic Workers devote their lives to living in poverty with the poor and homeless. They are a very radical group and have faith larger than these California Mountains in the distance. My day was very unexpected. The Catholic Worker did not look like I had imagined it. There was art everywhere and it almost felt like we had stepped into a small village. Volunteers to my left were caring for peoples feet because being homeless is hard on your feet. Sometimes they can't even take their shoes off when they sleep because their shoes might not be there in the morning. All around the catholic worker were signs posted that said that nobody was allowed to sit or sleep on the sidewalks. Before I knew it I was standing in line for a meal that I had no intention of eating, not because of how old it was or the quality, but because that was a meal someone else who might not have eaten in days could have enjoyed instead of myself. In line I met a fellow Delta Zeta who was volunteering at the Catholic Worker and it brought a smile to my face knowing that my sisters are living out our creed, "To those whom my life may touch in slight measure, may I give graciously of what is mine..."
I was given a plate of food and was told that if I was comfortable I could sit with anyone I'd like and share conversation. Honestly, I was not comfortable. I had definitely stepped out of my comfort zone and was surrounded by homeless strangers who travel with all their belongings and never know when their next meal will be and there I was standing in the middle of them feeling selfish eating their food. I was beckoned to sit with a man who did not speak hardly any english. As I was looking around I caught a lady's attention and she offered me a pickle, normally I would take someone up on that offer but I could not take anything from these people. I politely declined and she became interested in me and started to talk to me. At first she was interested in getting to know me. I explained our trip and mission to her and told her a little about myself. She then began telling me her story. Her name was Cassandra who grew up in the middle class with a mother and many brothers and sisters. Her brothers and sisters became successful and her as the oldest fell into some traps and into her current lifestyle. Cassandra then revealed that she has a 7yr old son who is her motivation to get her life together to be reunited with him. Her story was so touching and she began talking about how important my mother should be to me and I could not agree with her more. Her last words to me were, "Please keep me in your prayers and can I have a hug?" I granted both of her wishes.
I then looked down at the plate I couldn't finish and at all the people around me. Tears started welling up in my eyes imagining this as an everyday routine for so many men, women, and children. My heart broke into pieces as I thought about those that surrounded me. Eating at the Catholic Worker was a humbling experience.
After the Catholic Worker, we were brought to The Los Angeles Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. This was a giant transition from spending time at the Catholic Worker. The church was massive with a mix of modern and tradition. It was just around the corner from The Catholic Worker, and what a transition. So much money was invested into making this masterpiece that stands as the second largest Catholic Church in the nation, and blocks away from it are starving people who have the same faith  as you and me.
Looking back at all the places we have visited, they might not all have been Marianist but everywhere we go there is a sense of a Marianist Charism. I am starting to see how the Marianist Charisms play into everyday life, not just at St. Mary's. This has given me a sense of comfort of graduating in May, knowing that I can go anywhere and maintain our Marianists Charisms for life.


Samantha Lara
St. Mary's University

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