Before all the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic really began, I along with six other Creighton students had the opportunity to spend a week unplugged from what was going on in the rest of the world and instead be immersed in the diverse and vibrant community of North Minneapolis. Our days were spent with the kids at Ascension Catholic School and our evenings we cooked dinner for and heard personal stories from various people in the North Minneapolis community. We learned about issues ranging from gun violence to immigration and encountered a variety of different cultures such as Hmong and Native American. All these experiences were connected by our wonderful host Brian. Brian graciously welcomed us into his home, the St. Jane House, with open arms and showed us what it truly means to “Be who you are and be that well.”
A moment that really sticks out to me from the trip was a moment of realization that I think we all had. Wednesday night, as we were gathered around the kitchen table in Brian’s kitchen, our coordinators solemnly informed us that we had to return to Omaha early due to the coronavirus. The joking atmosphere quickly became somber as looks of shock were exchanged between watery eyes. “What about the kids?” someone said in a hushed voice as we all realized we were going to miss a whole day at the school Friday and would have to tell the kids tomorrow that it was actually our last day.
Later that night, we moved to the living room for our nightly group reflection. During this time, we all acknowledged our sadness and disappointment about the situation and having to leave this community a day early. For many of us, I think it was this situation that allowed us to realize just how much these kids had impacted us, and how attached we had become. It wasn’t until we were faced with leaving that we realized just how much we had come to love and connect with the people we encountered in this community. At least knowing that we were missing out a whole day allowed us to appreciate all the little things more on what became our new last day.
It was a very powerful moment the next day when it was time to leave the school, and I had seven six-year-olds clinging to me and refusing to let me go. It was also one of the hardest moments, easing myself out of their grip and knowing I was leaving for good. This was another moment that I realized the mutual impact we’d had on each other, the kids and I.
Now, sitting here at home, where I’ve been practicing social distancing for the past several days, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. A line from the song Hands, by Jewel, that has been on my heart during this time is “In the end only kindness matters.” The lyrics of this song were Brian’s parting gift to us and they’ve really stuck with me. I keep thinking about how at the end of the day, we are all more similar than we are different; we all just want to be loved. And kindness is a way to show love that can break across any barriers. Through my experiences in North Minneapolis, I’ve learned that kindness can speak any language, and no culture, race, religion or any other differences can stand in its way. I am so grateful for the impact this experience has had on me, and I know I will hold on tightly to these memories during this difficult time our world is in.
- Elizabeth Wunn, Class of 2023