And So It Begins!

Hello! This is RJ Schratz, a Junior from Dayton, and Jonah, a Sophomore from Saint Mary's! With any adventure, there are always plenty of unknowns. Our trip to LA, however, has more than most. Not only were we unsure of the territory, as the majority of us had never been to Los Angeles before, but we had also never encountered the people from the other universities besides a slightly awkward Google hangout call. 
Despite being exhausted the night before I (Jonah) boarded my flight from San Antonio to Los Angeles, I could not sleep. The pressures of being introduced to a new group of people made me anxious about the dynamics I could bring to this immersion experience.  I knew the people would be pleasant and polite but my main concern was how we would interact with one another.
All my doubts were quickly drowned when Brother Brandon and the students from Dayton, RJ, Maggie, Mary Beth, and Emily, greeted us at the Getty Museum with warm smiles and genuine questions about our flight. We got to know them pretty well and I became confortable holding casual conversation with each of them. Later on, when we got back to the villa where we were staying and met with Brother Mark and the students from Chaminade, Stefan, Adam, Angel and Jerri for the first time, they proved to be wonderful people as well. That is what stuck me most on the first day in LA, our immediate camaraderie. We played card games and ate together on the first night the way a family does every day for years. I look forward to the rest of the days here, when we can work in solidarity with our companions on this trip and with the people we will be serving.
Jonah, I (RJ) agree! I’m excited at how quickly we have all become friends, and for the opportunity to serve with you this week. For myself, today was real to the point of being surreal! Despite everything I have heard and seen about LA, seeing it in person blew me away. This city has absolutely striking beauty! Today was a reminder to me that personal experience is a game changer. It makes all of these things we hear about the world around us not just a part of a story, but our story. It changes our experience from the theoretical to the visceral. It completely changes how we see the world around us.
To me, today was just a foretaste of what this week has in store for us. Though it’s great to know the feeling of flight and see the palm trees along the city streets, I cannot wait to walk with those in brokenness and pain in this city, because I know that it will transform my heart. I am excited to grow in compassion and love for the people living in this city.
For both of us, the first day has been beautiful and surreal. The homey housing accommodations and visually stunning museum helped to ease our entrance into a world of struggle. Hopefully this can provide a dichotomy with which to compare both worlds that are prevalent in the Los Angeles society; the vast wealth of Hollywood and the poverty of skid row and what we can do to bring them closer together.

Sincerely,
Jonah and RJ

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