I didn’t expect to meet someone like Travis when I went to Memphis over Fall Break.
Travis was experiencing homelessness when he came into the Manna House on a Thursday. He entered just as we were to close up shop for the day after providing coffee, showers, clean clothing and hospitality to the people of Memphis. Though a worker tried to send him away, I went over to him, telling him to come back the following week for a shower and clothes. After communicating over written notes, due to his tough time hearing, Travis reaches out his hand. I shake it, tentatively, before he takes his other hand and pulls me in for a hug.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was the most genuine, heartfelt hug I’ve ever had. So when our embrace finally ends, he pulls back with a smile I can only describe as loving.
In Memphis, I learned that the second-graders at Our Lady of Sorrows know a whole lot more about Greek mythology than I do. I learned that they love playing hide-and-go-seek, and I learned that they love answering their teacher’s questions about phonics.
In Memphis, I learned that fifth-graders see right through my “enthusiasm” when I tell them their math homework is fun. I learned that most little kids are better dancers than me, and that most people think burritos are superior to hotdogs.
But if I had to sum it all up, this is what I learned in Memphis: that we belong to each other. I’ve heard this phrase thrown around all the time by those in the Ignatian family, but I’d yet to have any experiences outside of my direct Creighton community where I saw it in action.
But alas, it’s true. We do belong to one another. I realized this slowly all week while we were in Memphis, and then it hit me as I embraced Travis in the greatest hug of my life. I was overwhelmed with a feeling and with knowing that we belong — to ourselves, to God, and to each other.
When we invest our time in each other and in the betterment of our human family, great things happen. Hope is restored. Love is shared. Dignity is affirmed. Belonging is recognized.
On our last car ride before we left Memphis the following morning, my group played John Denver’s classic hit and belted out the words: “country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong.”
For that week, my group and I belonged in Memphis. But for the rest of our lives, we know that we belong to the people of Memphis.
Class of 2020
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