Community. Before Spring Break, I was confident that I knew the definition of this word: community is a group of people with some common goal or who have some trait in common. But I realized throughout my week in Minneapolis that community can exist with any group of people, even if on the surface, they may not seem to have anything in common. I met with so many different groups throughout the week, all of whom welcomed me with open arms to their experience.
I hung out with two high school boys from North Minneapolis, who no one would guess that I had anything in common with at all. But by the end of the week, I was singing the Cup Song with one of them and dancing around the living room.
I ate brunch with a group of nuns who had dedicated their lives to serving the community of North Omaha. I shared a soup dinner with members of a parish that infuses Catholicism and Native American traditions and customs. I visited a mosque and learned about prayer in the Muslim faith. I heard stories of mothers who had lost their sons to gun violence. Throughout all of these experiences, I did not feel excluded or like an outsider, even though that’s what I was. I felt connected to every person that I met. The only commonality that is necessary to build community is one’s humanity. Community can be established between any group of people.
Our host Brian exemplified what community should look like. He opens up his house, the St. Jane House, to any group or person that wants to congregate there. On our final night in North Minneapolis, we had a party celebrating all of the people we had met throughout the week. It was such a hodgepodge group of people, but somehow it all worked. That’s community.
One of the communities that welcomed me in was the fifth grade classroom at Ascension Catholic School. I was a teacher’s assistant for the week, and getting to know the students of that class was undoubtedly one of the most impactful parts of my service and justice trip. I had a conversation with one of the students in this classroom that I will never forget. I was answering a few questions he had about how to spell some words for his reading assignment when he told me out of the blue that he missed his dad. I prompted him a bit and he said, “My dad left for Ecuador this morning. He has to go back there for five years. He had to leave by train because if he tried to fly, he could get in trouble and have to stay there for ten years.” I was floored. Wow, just a moment ago I was thinking about what little motivation he had to complete his assignment, and all of the sudden he opened up about how his dad was gone. I couldn’t imagine having to say goodbye to my dad for five years.
Of course I have heard about immigration in the news and have discussed it before as a social justice issue, but never before had my heart broken so much over the issue. This fifth grade boy was left without a father for at least five years- I couldn’t fathom that.
I have never felt as connected to the human race as I did in North Minneapolis on Spring Break. I had the privilege to get to know people who I thought were so different from me. My preconceived notions about our differences melted away as I engaged in conversation with people.
Class of 2020
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