The Journey Continues… Pono Riddle
The Journey Continues…
My name is Pono Riddle and I’ll be a 4th year student at Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawaii majoring in Psychology. Today, May 18th, was the second full day of the immersion trip. Although it was only the second full day in LA, the impact it left, not only for me but everyone else, will remain in our hearts and minds forever.
First Stop: Hippie Kitchen in the heart of Skid Row. Due to a high amount of volunteers for the day coming in to Skid Row, our group of 15 (12 students and 3 advisors) was split into two groups the previous night—one group was scheduled to come in at around 7:30AM , the other at around lunch time, 12PM. The kitchen was expecting its usual amount of people and handing out at least 1,000 meals. The first group of us—myself and Valerie (Chaminade), Joseph and Austin (University of Dayton), Meghan and Giselle (St. Mary’s)—arrived at the kitchen and split up into 3 smaller groups, assisting in various tasks such as, but not limited to the following: chopping lettuce, carrots, onions, etc., handing out water to people coming into the meal line, and serving the cooked meal. Meghan, Giselle, and myself were assigned to chopping the lettuce. Afterwards, I helped another non-student volunteer hand out water to the people coming in to get food. I was cognizant of the fact that since it was early in the morning, I made sure warmly to greet people and ask if they wanted water. It is psychologically proven that we as humans are prewired with a negativity bias—perceiving a negative encounter as a threat and/or letting stereotypes dictate how we treat people.
As soon as I walked outside of the kitchen to start handing out water, I was overwhelmed with the presence of the Holy Spirit; I felt brave and bold not to let negativity bias and stereotypes get in the way of me providing service to those on Skid Row. I made sure to greet everyone with a smile on my face, a friendly but firm “hi; good morning, how are you?” and offered them water. A couple of “God moments” had presented themselves before me. Some time had passed by and I met Mahereg, a faithful volunteer at Hippie Kitchen. He had moved from Boston to LA about eight months ago and has volunteered ever since. I also interacted with another older gentlemen, Martin, who also had some light to shed on the visitor activity at the kitchen: “we may be guests here at Hippie Kitchen; however, we are all children of God; all of us need to help each other. As he said this, I was looking around me and people-watched for a good 15 minutes as I was eating lunch. As I was people-watching, it reminded me about what Father Greg had mentioned in his book, Tattoos of the Heart: we are part of a kinship; it is paramount that we help each other, whether we have everything or nothing. There shouldn’t be an “us versus them” type of attitude; at the end of the day, a person is a person. Before departing for our next destination and after clean-up, the six of us who came in the first wave of students interacted further with Dimitri, who was helping to paint a mural a bit ways up the street from Hippie Kitchen, a project he and others have been working on since the beginning of April and expects to finish by mid-June. A couple of words/phrases on the mural stuck out to me: “Defend the Sacred,” “Justice.” Overall, it was a great day to be present and be of service to those who are without anything.
Second Stop: The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels. We were all greeted by Brother Brandon and gathered by the baptismal font at the very back of the cathedral, where an envelope and paper were placed temporarily on a chair until we sat. Along with doing a check-in to see how everyone’s day was going so far, he briefly touched upon the Saints that were painted digitally on the tapestries in the cathedral. The next thing to do on the agenda was to open the envelope and sit in the pew that was closest to our saint, read, and reflect. I had St. John Vianney, who is the patron saint of priests. Long story short, he always had a vision of becoming a priest; however, due to the lack of knowledge and understanding of Latin, it further delayed him in being ordained. He eventually passed all required rigorous classes and was ordained shortly after. After large-group sharing, we were free to do anything we wanted for an hour. I decided to go to the gift shop along with Carlos and Joseph (UD). Overall, this experience was mesmerizing because it was my first visit to the cathedral.
Third Stop: Dinner(!) at El Tepeyec. Overall it was a crucial time in continuing to bond with everyone and to share in experiences we had throughout the day at the Hippie Kitchen. We played retreat games, enjoyed each other’s company and were just present in the moment. I feel like because we’re so acclimated with each other, it feels that we’ve been on this trip longer than 2 days; it feels more like a week.
Fourth and final stop: Assumption Elementary School. This school was right down the road from the place at which we ate. The children’s school choir (2nd-8th grade) was performing a repertoire of songs they had practiced; this was night 2 of 3. Unbeknownst to our knowledge, all 15 of us were special guests, listening to them sing and play other instruments.
As I conclude this reflection, I’m reminded of the nickname for Los Angeles; it’s the “City of Angels.” Through our efforts today and every day hereafter, we are each other’s angels—doing service and engaging in social justice together. I’m also reminded of a saying in that chapel here at the residence, “the love of Christ has gathered us together. After today, I feel excited, hopeful, calmer, braver, bolder, more open-minded, and forever changed. On to day 3!
Senior, Chaminade University