Waking up at 5am today was not an easy task, but little did I know what I was in for. As a family we ate breakfast (saw a lot of dogs.) The couple that owned the restaurant were so friendly and welcoming and really embodied the Marianist Charism of community.
Our morning was spent at Delores Mission School. Their principle gave us a brief history lesson about how the school came to be and how Father Greg played a great part. We were then brought to a community member's home that was part of the "projects." Her and her family spoke of the hardships they endured. Gangs had inhabited their community and their neighborhood was known as the most unsafe city. The children spoke about how far they have come since then and how thankful they were to get out.
At lunch we came across a homeless man and offered him some of the lunch we had leftover. He was so thankful for the bag of food and prayed to the statue of St. Ignacious and left the Saint the only payment he could offer, a small lollipop. This lollipop may seem small and insignificant to us, but was this man's form of money and repayment. He insisted that our students take the candy until his bag was empty. He gave up his only possessions in return for food. This really opened my eyes.
I spent my afternoon in the second/third grade classroom for after school help. I began helping a little boy named Vincent with his vocabulary and he spoke about how his father works from 5am-12am and his brothers take care of him. Situations like these are what drives kids to gangs and violence, even though its not their parents fault for working to give their kids the best it often backfires because the kids are left alone. After school programs like the one at Delores Mission helps keeps these kids off the streets. I met Vincent's little sister who was about 4 or 5 and she looked into my eyes and touched my cheeks. Her name was Zoey and she then asked if she could hug me, not many words were shared between us but her hug meant the world to me and I felt her love and spirit.
Dinner was spent at the Jesuit Volunteers house just around the corner from Delores Mission. I was really excited to spend time here because I am in the process of deciding if I want to do post-grad service after graduation in May. The Jesuit community is definitely one of my options and this who experience has been kind of like a mini version of their commitment. A message that really stood out to me was said by Dave, "We are not here to serve, we are here to walk with them." Serving is all that I have really done in my past 3 1/2 years at St. Mary's and that has been my prime focus but this week I have been given the opportunity to walk beside my brothers and sisters in Christ and it has been the opportunity of a lifetime.

Samantha Lara
St. Mary's University


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