Love Is an Open Door - Valerie Miles & Joseph Zhao

Hi, my name is Valerie Miles. I am a sophomore at Chaminade University of Honolulu and I am majoring in historical and political studies. In the past three days, I have had the fortune of partaking in a journey with my fellow brothers and sisters from the Marianist universities across the nation. It is a week-long trip in which we fully immerse ourselves in the realities of those living on the margins of our society. It has been my greatest honor privilege being granted the opportunity to do something that I love and more importantly contributing to the betterment of our society. I have never believed in the idea of sharing service we show to the less fortunate on a public platform via the internet or social media. I have always perceived it as rather a patronizing act of kindness, but as I have contemplated on the sole purposes of what we are dealing with, I have taken into account the importance of awareness in which our generation in this time and age is the most accessible through technology.

Today marked the third full day of our immersion trip. We embarked on a journey which led us to three designated stops for the day. First up was the Homeboy Industries which was personally the most exciting part for me. Prior to this trip, I, and three of my other mates were given Father Gregory Boyle’s book Tattoos on the Heart by our trip coordinator Maimoa Fineisaloi, so I was familiar with the history behind Homeboy Industries. Our second stop was at Olvera Street. It is known to be Los Angeles’ “First Street” and is rich in culture and historical monuments from the late 1800s. Lastly, we ended the eventful day at the brother’s community in Westhills by the Chaminade College Prep High School where we were kindly welcomed by Brother Ted, Jack, and Dave.

To put things into perspective of our journey today, I would like to share a phrase I have put together from my past experiences, “No matter how left you go, God will bring you back right where you belong.” As we hit the road to make our way down to the Homeboy Industries, we are faced with the typical, fun LA traffic. Our driver makes a wrong turn or two and so we end up in a continuous loop that would delay our time of arrival. After a few instances of wrong turns and delays, I noticed a commonality in our wrongs later on in the evening. No matter how lost we got, we eventually still found our way back to our destination. This destination in some ways is God. Like the homies, despite the adversities they endured, they eventually found their way back to God through Homeboy Industries after countless of wrong turns. In return, they also found their way back where they belonged which is in themselves and who God intended for them to be since their first breath of life. It is the beauty and power in love and compassion.

Love is an ambiguous word with many meanings and profound emotion. It was the wave of contentment and the feeling of belonging that swept over me and lifted my spirits out of its temple as I took my first step into the Homeboy Industry today. As I scoped the area, my heart was filled with joy and eyes near overflowing as I was already seeing God’s light in every person in the room. I am a person of deep feelings and high emotions, so to live in what is now one of my favorite book’s reality was a surreal moment for me. It was like meeting Beyonce but better (I never thought anything would be better than Beyonce so you know it’s real). Our brave tour guides, Omar and Emilio, shared their stories with open hearts putting things into perspective for me. I felt like God always put us right where we belong. In short, both of these men’s stories were different in their own respects but very common in terms of finding their way back to who God intended them to be. Both Omar and Emilio were in and out of jail, but they found hope in Homeboy because every time they came back they were embraced, they both said, “The door never shuts at Homeboy.” This is an example of God’s love for us, that no matter how unfaithful we are He will continue to accept us every time we come back. It is similar to the concept of wrong turns that we made on our way to Homeboy; sometimes it takes wrong turns to find God.

I truly believe in signs and connections between everything in this world, had we not taken a wrong turn or two, I would have not come to the realization this analogy that puts my life into perspective. This journey is unlike no other. I have never been more spiritually fed and inspired to do better and to be more in our world. Among many things I will value and cherish for the rest of my life from this journey, I will remember to value my sensitivity and vulnerability for the things that matter. For the longest time I have always played hard to disguise who I was in fear of being perceived to be weak. But in recent occurrences, I find that I would rather feel everything than to feel nothing at all.

With love,
Valerie Miles 
Sophomore, Chaminade University of Honolulu

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