I’ve found that there’s something particularly special about places. For the past two years, I have learned to call Creighton University, and Omaha, NE, my home. But in the mere matter of days, I found an even greater pull to the South, where I and eight of my most valuable new friends ventured in March.
I quickly discovered that we were entering sacred spaces. Yes, we were headed to historical sites, but these places each held a certain feeling—a feeling that we are the people now in the shoes of those who came before us, and that we each now had the responsibility to carry on their mission.
We were on hallowed ground as we walked under the balcony and up to the room of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. (The Motel is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.)
We were on hallowed ground as we came to Selma, where we marched from the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in honor of the civil rights leaders like MLK, Rep. John Lewis, and Amelia Boynton Robinson who established justice with their use of nonviolent direct action.
We were on hallowed ground as we came to Montgomery and entered the Freedom Rides Museum, where college students like ourselves were attacked and beaten for riding buses to end segregation in public places across state lines.
We were on hallowed ground as we entered the Dexter Parsonage (the home of MLK during his years as a pastor for the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church), walking across the front porch, which was etched with a crater from a bomb thrown at his home in 1956 while his wife and daughter were inside.
We were on hallowed ground when we stood in a circle around the kitchen table in that home, where he sat in the middle of the night as he heard his calling from God to fight for justice.
And we were on hallowed ground as we walked up to the pulpit at that church, as we spoke from his actual podium, and as we climbed the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, all places where he made historic speeches.
And yet I also noticed the sanctity of the grounds where we stayed. Resurrection Catholic Mission, its owners and employees, its patrons and parishioners, and its families and community members each showed us the sacredness of their own place.
In Montgomery, I learned to meet people where they’re at. That’s how you understand and connect with others. It’s too easy for us to leave places and forget about them. But that didn’t happen with this trip.
I learned the value of stories and the hardships they each hold. When encountering the people of Montgomery, Alabama, I took a step back, and learned to give sincerity to the way I listened and truth to the way I spoke. I found that all places have a story, and all places are held in the memories of our brothers and sisters.
And I finally was able to put into action one of my favorite quotes. “It’s not the place you’ve come to, but the place you go from,” Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, always says. (He attributes the quote to MLK.)
I came to the South not knowing that the place I had come to would impact me so deeply. But I left the South, I left Memphis, I left Selma, and I left Montgomery having learned that we must eventually go from these places that teach us so much. But we must never forget what they taught us, and we must never waver in our desire to go onwards, to the next destination, and to the next plot of hallowed ground.
Class of 2020
The SCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the SCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.