Service Trip Reflection: Madi Felipe at White Rose

What is service? I found myself thinking this upon my return from my Spring Break “Service” Trip. I kept looking back at my week and tried to determine what services I provided. I never fed the homeless, built a house, or tutored kids. Did I serve? Yes? Maybe? Honestly, at first I didn’t know. But then I started thinking about my experiences with my group and the people at our host site, the White Rose. We shared laughs and knowledge, food prep and clean up duties, floor space and house work. We were together, we were whole. We listened and spoke with intention. We created a safe space where all of us felt comfortable sharing opposing, contradictory, and scattered thoughts and feelings. We served each other. By becoming vulnerable and open we were able to be honestly present physically, mentally, and emotionally for each other. No one needed a hand out, no one needed food or clothes or shelter, but we did need love, acceptance, and community. We provided each other with the support that allowed ourselves to be so truly authentic that we could connect with ourselves, and each other, on a deeper level.
I realize now that those actions were my forms of service. Being a supporter and friend IS an act of service. Just staying in the room talking to the people on meal prep or dishes; asking questions about themselves so time could go more quickly and create a more pleasurable environment, IS a way of serving them. There might not be a physical reminder of the service I provided, but there is a profound change within the people I interacted with, as well as inside myself, that proves to me how much my presence and openness mattered to this experience.
I learned so much this past week about myself, but I know that would not have been possible without the service of the people around me. Their authenticity and intensity was contagious. I was there to serve them, but in the end I would say they served me much more than I them.
I want to send my gratitude to the coordinators of the trips, my wonderful White Rosers, and all the people I came in contact with in Chicago. Through learning this new definition of service, I have come to the conclusion that I can dedicate my life to the service of others without changing any of my future goals. Service is a mindset and attitude just as much as it is an action. Motivation matters, and I plan to use my motivation to live as a servant of humanity.

-Madi Felipe

White Rose Catholic Worker House

I never thought I’d be living off of food recovered from dumpsters but for the last week of my life, this is exactly what I was living off of. Welcome to the White Rose Catholic worker, a place where nothing is wasted, not even human waste; that’s what the compost toilet is for. These Catholic workers are dedicated to the environment, non-violence, non-torture, and peacemaking. They spend their days holding vigils against Guantanamo bay and spend their nights together in community eating a mix of the food that they have dumpstered that day and the food that they have grown on their organic farm. There are six Catholic workers who live at the White Rose. Most do not have jobs. The two that do, work part time at universities researching and teaching. The other four refuse to work so that they won’t be forced to pay war taxes. They refuse to work so that they will have more time to take action in their community. They take action against the school of the Americas, against the torture at Guantanamo bay, against the deportation of immigrants, and against NATO and the G8, just to name a few. These Catholic workers don’t live a mainstream life. They work on an organic farm by day and organize a free market by night. They welcome guests into their home by day and fast from energy by night. They do scripture by day and have round table discussions and open community meals by night.

Living in this intentional community with these six Catholic workers for an entire week has caused me to realize how much I must change about my own life. The life that they live, though it shocked me at first, is the way that I would like to live my own life. Being in this community has inspired me to take small steps; to walk and bike wherever I can, to fast from energy and technology as much as I can, to grow my own small garden, to stand up for what I believe in even if there are risks involved. Living with these Catholic workers has given me hope; hope for a better tomorrow. Change can and will happen. They are making it happen in their own community and we can make it happen in ours.

-Chelsea Ensor