Belonging Home

Hello, my name is Tim Fasano and I am a junior at the University of Dayton. Today began the same as all the others, early, but unlike the last two days the rain let up and we were blessed with the uplifting sight of the sun. My group had the opportunity to work with the people of Union Rescue Mission, an organization filled with many devoted individuals who allow their faith to drive their vocation of being Christ to the people of Skid Row. We served in the kitchen preparing and serving lunch to a large number of men, women, and children.What struck me most about this experience was the opportunity I had to meet two men, Giod and Victor, both of whom are residents at the Mission. Giod had been homeless and living on the streets for some time before coming to the Mission, and Victor had found the Mission through a reference from his pastor. Both of these men shared a little bit about themselves, and on the surface our interactions may seem quite ordinary, no different from a conversations one may have with any stranger. But that's just it. I believe all of us, if not most of us who went to the Mission found great joy and love from this simple interaction because of its simplicity. We encountered these two men as exactly who they are, people. While the specifics of our backgrounds differ, we all face struggles and challenges, but also blessings and love that are just manifested in different ways. It's important to realize there's no "us" and "them," no "giver" and "recipient." We all play both roles whether we are the person filling a bowl of soup or the one standing in line waiting for his/her one and only meal for the day. In the end we must realize we are all walking the same pilgrimage of life, and that "we all belong to one another."

Tim Fasano
University of Dayton
Dayton, OH

Hi everyone! My name is Elizabeth, and I am a junior at the University of Dayton. This has been an incredible experience thus far, and I am excited to share it with you.

Over the last few years, I have spent ample time reflecting on the word home. I have a home in Iowa, where I grew up and lived 17 years. I have a home in Ohio, where my family now resides. I have a home at UD. Home is not so much a place or physical shelter as it is a feeling, an intangible sense of love and acceptance, comfort and kinship. Today, while Tim's group was at URM, I went with a group to the Catholic Worker on Skid Row. My job was buttering and serving bread. I enjoyed the conversation with fellow volunteers and the people who came to eat lunch.

When I took my lunch break, I ate in the garden outside the Catholic Worker. The garden is beautiful. It is large and full of green plants, flowers, chimes, and color -- a marked difference from the streets just feet away. When I walked around in the garden, I almost forgot I was in the heart of some of the most intense poverty I have witnessed. You walk in and almost naturally take the cue of the life around you -- people smile, converse, and love. No one is on a cell phone. No one is wealthy or poor. Everyone is simply human.

One of those people is Big Joe. I ate lunch with him, and I commented on the beauty of the garden. That led to a conversation about the people there. Big Joe told me about his experience of community on Skid Row. The people who live there support one another. They look out for each other, and they experience life together. They talk together in what Big Joe called the "oasis" of the garden. They show compassion for each other, meaning they literally "suffer with" one another. Even if they ran into each other miles away or years down the road, he said, they would greet each other as neighbors, as friends, as family.

In parallel, our immersion group also spent a lot of time simply hanging out as a community today. In the past few days, the 16 of us have formed incredible relationships. We have seen and heard difficult things, engaged in dialogue with one another and the people we've met in LA, and pondered big questions. We've played many games, learned about where we all come from, and (at least in my case) laughed so hard we cried. Tonight, we had dinner with some of the Marianist brothers in LA, and after a delicious meal full of joy and reminiscing, we shared some of the fears we have about returning home after this experience. Amidst all the uncertainty in the room, there was a deep sense of peace, because we are experiencing all of it together. I feel like these people are my neighbors, my friends, my family.

That kind of kinship is human. It doesn't discriminate based on background, socioeconomic status, or race. Deep relationships are the seed from which raw love, acceptance, compassion, solace, and encouragement are born. They give us permission to dream, and they keep us motivated when challenges arise. The God in each person is fully lived; often it is in relationship that we feel most alive. I have felt these things in both the garden on Skid Row and in community with the other immersion participants. I think that is where we find what we call home. And if that is what home means, then the people on Skid Row are most certainly not homeless. On the contrary, they have demonstrated perhaps the best sense of the word I have ever known.

Please continue to keep us and the people of Los Angeles in your prayers, and know that we are doing the same, praying in thanksgiving for all of you accompanying us on this journey.

With Peace,
Elizabeth Abrams
University of Dayton
Dayton, OH


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