Asking Essential Questions – Albuquerque, NM


There were countless situations on our trip where the only reaction we had was to pause and ask, “What?” But someone hardly ever had an explanation, so the motto of our group very quickly became, “Don’t ask questions.”

Since we were so immersed in the problem of homelessness, our trip had a constant intensity to it, and hearing someone say, “Just don’t ask” brought moments of comic relief when we needed them most. But as we got further into our week, I started to feel as if we were using this phrase as a Band-Aid to cover up the harsh or difficult realities behind the things we were seeing and hearing. We only stayed in the shelter for one week, so it was almost too easy to not ask questions and to leave the difficult underlying problems of homelessness for someone else to solve. But so many people have been living in this situation day in and day out for years. They have no escape. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What can I, a single, finite person, do to help?” I think a safe place to start is by asking questions.

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There is no limit to the amount of questions we can ask: How did those experiencing homelessness get into the situation that they are in? What programs are in place to help them? What opportunities do they have for employment and education? What is available to them in terms of physical and mental care? How are they treated by society? How do I treat them? Do I act in a way that respects their humanity and dignity?

If we don’t question the things around us, we fall into complacency and simply accept everything we see, good or bad. But getting answers that we don’t like to the questions we ask allows us to see the injustices in our world. We then have the beautiful opportunity to make a concrete plan of action to change these answers.

We could have just not asked questions and left the problems of Albuquerque behind when we left St. Martin’s, but similar injustices are scattered throughout our own community, and I know that we aren’t going to find peace by ignoring them. This short week of being truly and intentionally present to those around me has shown me that we as a community need to question the societal structures that are in place, so we can effect the change needed to create a culture of peace, love, and justice.

Shannah Unseld

Class of 2020

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