Paradigm Shift – Milwaukee, WI


I am extremely privileged in life. The opportunities that have been afforded to me since I was a kid, have given me countless ways to better myself professionally, intellectually, and physically. On the Milwaukee Service and Justice trip, I finally understood the real chasm between my privilege and other’s disadvantages. Failing schools, crime-ridden neighborhoods, and food insecurity riddled the streets of this city. It felt overwhelming to immerse myself in this new environment, interacting with people who I had nothing in common with. Before the trip had even commenced it was stressed that all participants should leave their preconceived notions at Creighton. However, I found this difficult. I was at some points fearful of coming off as a “happy do-gooder” who didn’t understand the harsh realities of anyone’s current situation. I was fearful of not being able to offer any substantive help to the people I interacted with. In a lot of ways, the hardest part about this trip was being able to see past a person’s current situation and just see them as a friend. I felt I had to do something like offer assistance, but this mindset was deeply flawed.

This whole paradigm of mine changed when I met a lady called Virginia at a free, lunch-time cafe. She greeted me with a smile and a slight ribbing about my decision not to take the salad for my plate. Virginia called me, “No salad.” This little quip really did break me out of my box-like thinking. I finally realized the only thing I need think about in a situation like this was having a normal conversation with the person across the table. The harsh reality is that no one person can solve all the problems they are presented, but they can lend an ear or generate a laugh. This is especially true because a majority of the people our group interacted with were extremely grateful for all they had and did not focus on that which they did not. In multiple individual conversations when I asked the simple question, “How’s your day going?” the individual would respond that they were thankful for all they had and for God’s love and guidance. It was inspiring to hear this message as it called me into a deeper appreciation of my own spiritual up-bringing.

This trip was informative, transformative, and life-giving. It offered a chance to grow in faith, friendship, and it fueled deeper introspection. At the end of this week-long service and justice experience, everyone in the group experienced a paradigm shift and began to see a real opportunity to bond with people in tough situations, realizing that God was present in all of them.

 

Over the week of Creighton’s Fall break, myself and 8 other students traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to learn about the issues of immigration, homelessness, and segregation. From the get-go, all of us were extremely open to the idea of having our minds changed, our pre-conceived notions shattered, and our paradigms shifted. We talked openly about our thoughts on these complex issues and all conceded that we didn’t know everything. It was very rewarding to have these discussions early on in the trip as it fostered a more open and encouraging environment for in-depth discussion to occur.

milwaukee

During our service and justice trip we stayed at a former convent called Casa Romero which now doubles as a community center for spiritual retreats and issue advocacy. The main leader during our trip, Sister Jean had lived at this convent for a large portion of her life and informed us that the surrounding community was changing in a process called, gentrification. This issue of gentrification was something a majority of us knew nothing about, but it took center stage in our education throughout the week. Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the country, and the tensions surrounding this fact have boiled over into massive civil unrest.

All of us as we toured the city and talked with people in this city began to understand how complex the issues we were learning about truly were. However, what surprised me the most was how grateful everyone was. They talked about how the Lord had been good to them, and he watched over them and protected them.

Michael McClellan
Class of 2022

 

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.