Service Trip Reflection: Sarah Carnes in Montgomery

Is anyone ever truly prepared for the experience of a lifetime? I wasn’t. That’s for sure.

As we pulled up to the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, it all began sinking in. This, this was where Martin Luther King was shot. I walked up the stairs. I looked in the window of Room 306. This was his room. That was his bed. Yet, when I looked down at the ground, it all suddenly became very real. I was standing exactly where he was shot… At that moment, I could see him standing there. I could see the bullet pierce his chest. I could see him lying in front of me. We hadn’t even made it to Montgomery, but my life was changing.

I love kids. Maybe it’s because of the energy. Maybe it’s because of the freedom. Maybe it’s because I am one. In any case, when I was told I’d be working in a school, I was ecstatic.

However, what should’ve been an incredible day quickly plummeted into a torturous afternoon.

Aaron came in late. He’d missed the first part of the lesson because he’d needed to have a test read to him. His face was hardened. He was scowling. He drug his feet all the way to his desk. Finally, he sat down.

When his peers began pestering him, he retaliated.

Completely disregarding his classmates’ behavior, the teacher barked, “Aaron, stop messing around and get to work!”

He glared at her. Taking out a sheet of paper, he slowly began taking notes. His note-taking gradually stopped.

Again, his teacher reproached him. And again, he made a halfhearted attempt to work.

I couldn’t help but watch him. As he turned around to talk to the boy behind him, he was quickly scolded, “Aaron, come back here and sit by me!”

He stood up. There were daggers in his eyes. His peers stared…

“Everybody stop staring at me!” His eyes met mine. His face broke and the daggers fell. He looked down.

Aaron took his things back to the teacher’s desk and began taking notes.

If you could’ve seen this kid’s face break, your heart would’ve burst into a thousand pieces…I couldn’t handle it. I began drowning in my own emotions. At that point I realized something very important: your heart must be broken in order to be reformed.

I began examining myself. Do I write people off according to a certain stereotype as opposed to seeing the whole person? Am I quick to judge the actions of my neighbor? Do I love others as I love myself?

The Civil Rights Movement itself may be history, but it also remains history-in-the-making. Though we’ve made great bounds in the right direction, we have miles to go. Yet, our future is bright.

I could see it in the 8th grader who cleared the bathroom for a couple of potty-dancing preschoolers. I could see it in the four year old boy who took it upon himself to make absolutely certain that every single child in his class had something to drink after recess. I could see it in the way they praised God through every word they sang in church.

“Smile first… I’ve never seen an icicle that hasn’t eventually melted.”

After all, it all begins with small things because eventually, the small things become big things.

–Sarah Carnes

Photo Friday: Sarah Meets Detroit

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Photo taken by Ben Stevinson of  Sarah Peraud who wrote the following reflection on her Spring Break trip to Detroit.

I had the absolute privilege to spend my spring break in Detroit with 5 amazing people living with the Daughters of Charity and exploring different service sites.

Detroit is terrifying. Everywhere we drove we saw houses burned down. We saw people living, selling drugs, surviving on the streets. There was a lot of darkness, a lot of pain.  God was very hard to find.

But, I discovered Detroit is possibly the most hopeful place in the world.

Detroit used to be motor city, a city built on machines and industry. That was quickly taken away. Detroit was stripped. The bones of the city stand as testament to a world and industry that sucked out their marrow and then turned away.

There are no more factories. There are no shiny new cars rolling out from shiny warehouses and factories.

It is the people that make Detroit now. When I met those people, God became evident. When I opened my heart to loving God became inevitable.

I met a boy who, although homeless, just graduated high school wants to go to college and law school and move back to fight for Detroit. I met a child who wants to study fashion and who has the voice of the old Mo-Town greats. I met two homeless teenagers who had found love in each other. I heard an ex-addict talk about the power of poetry. I head volunteers speak with the utmost respect and welcome to the people who walked through their soup kitchen lines.  I saw grafitti everywhere, testament to artists still willing to put their name, their art, their mark on this city.

Repeatedly, after telling us about the cold and destitute situations they were dedicating their lives to people would say, “But things are looking up.”

“Detoit is a phoenix rising.”

“Detroit is a diamond in the rough.”

Over and over again, I heard, “We are a diamond in the rough.”

Detroit is a diamond in the rough. The rough is tougher than most, darker, thicker than most. There is certainly a lot of work to be done, and we are nowhere near finished. But hope is easy to find when the diamonds shine this bright.

I cannot wait to go back.

Monday Meditation: On Peace in Belonging

BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. You are a child of the Universe no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.  -Cassie Cromwell

Who has God been to me? When have I known that I belong? That I am loved? That I am meant to be here? That the world is full of meaning and beauty? What do those realizations mean for me? How can I respond?