Encounters, Interactions & Relationships

It has been almost two weeks since our return from the LA immersion, and not only did the 7 days in LA fly by, but so have the two weeks since we have left. Between returning to school, unpacking, and starting basically a full time job in student teaching, it’s really forced me to be intentional in setting time aside to reflect on the conversations, experiences, and friendships from the immersion.
In the weeks leading up to the experience we had the opportunity to engage in several readings, and a few videos to introduce us to some of the people and injustices we would encounter, as well as to get us thinking about the experience ahead. The readings were powerful for me in the weeks leading up to the immersion, but it was actually  meeting these people we read about, experiencing Skid Row first-hand and not just in a Youtube video, stepping foot into Homeboy industries and meeting some of the homies, that was most powerful for me. It pushed me to see the importance of human interactions. Of course reading is great and a very powerful tool to increase our understanding and knowledge, but it can only reach so far. It was by joining hands with a woman at Union Rescue mission and painting her nails, and hearing the pain and desire to change for his children, from Paco at Homeboy industries, and sharing a smile and a spork with those who came through the LA Catholic working food line, that touched the deepest parts of my heart. These are the moments that gave me goosebumps. It was in these moments I undeniably knew God was SO present, I could see Him in these people. So while the lessons I learned during this week were many, I have tried to mold it into one, one that I want to keep in my heart and at the front of my mind. One I never want to forget and want to keep challenging myself to remember and grow in. This lesson is the value in human interaction, and I am not talking about the obligatory good morning as you walk into work, I mean truly genuine conversation. The people of Los Angeles and the community I had the blessing of traveling and journeying with taught me the joy of interaction, of having a conversation with the intent of really listening, of hearing and learning from the stories of those around us. Listening to the others joys, struggles, and dreams, it puts you on a whole new level and it teaches you a lot.
As I mentioned above God was present all over the city of Los Angeles, but most presently to me in the people we encountered. Two specific instances that stand out to me happened at the LA Catholic worker and a rainy street corner. The LA Catholic worker instance is pretty simple, the volunteers and those coming through the line radiated God, they radiated love, and they radiated joy. Did any of them have the perfect life, perfect outfit, perfect family? Most likely not, but they loved so deeply and so fully. Just like God. We are naturally imperfect people, and nothing we can do will make us perfect, but just like those at the Catholic worker, God rises above our imperfections and loves us wholly and more deeply than we can ever imagine.
The second instance was on a rainy street corner outside  the Catholic Worker kitchen. The rain was relentless, as were the rivers of rushing water that filled the streets (LA is not made for rain). As we attempted to jump and tip toe through one of the street corner, a man standing on the corner offered his only umbrella, his only means of staying dry to help us cross. He placed the umbrella upside-down over the rushing water so we could walk across and keep dry. Pure selflessness, God was truly evident in that man. He gave all that he had to help us, talk about humbling.
The Marianist charism was also a huge part of this journey. In short, the Marianists rock. I have never felt so at home in a place that I have been for the first time, then when we were sharing conversation and meal with the Marianist communities we visited. The amount of hospitality and love they showed us was over-whelming; it’s hard to put into words. All I know is that I want to continue to learn and grown in the Marianist family. The community we formed between the three Marianist universities was equally as transforming. From sharing meals, to washing dishes, and entering into deep questions and daily prayer together, I felt what it meant to live in an intentional community founded in the Marianist charism, and I want to continue doing so.
In light of these lessons, friendships, and experiences from this immersion I have developed two specific resolution type ideas I want to really focus on in the weeks and months to come, not only to grow as a child of Christ, but to keep the spirit and energy of Los Angeles and this experience alive in my heart. The first is to be more intentional in my relationships and conversations with those I meet. Whether they have been a friend for a while, or someone I am just meeting. I so often get lost in all I have to do and think more about how I can quickly get out of a conversation, rather than really listening and investing myself in it. Relationships were a huge part of the LA experience for me, and I really pray I can continue to grow in that. The second thing is simplicity. It is something I so desire to embody, but am often times really bad at following through on. I have had times in my life where I was put in situations that required simplicity, and many of these times in my life I think back on with such great joy. Having a lot of clutter (both physical, and non-tangible), is stressful, it takes away from my ability to focus on Christ and His presence in those around me. So my resolution is when shopping to make a list of only the things I truly need, and to stick to that list. In addition I want to try and limit my eating out to no more than 2-3 times a month.
Thank you again to all who have and continue to keep our immersion community and the city of Los Angeles in your prayers.

Peace,
Sarah Wilker
University of Dayton 

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