By Anna Ferguson ’15
From the moment my service group met at the first general Spring Break Service Trip meeting, we joked about visiting 8 Mile.
8 Mile is a stretch of Michigan highway made famous by Detroit native Eminem, a rapper whose CD, named “8 Mile” for the area he grew up by, sold over 4,750,000 copies as of September 2010.
Coincidentally, the homeless shelter I will be serving at in Detroit is only 4 miles from 8 Mile.
My group began our second general service trip meeting by sharing our favorite hobbies, movies, and bands. One of my leaders, an enthusiastic Eminem fan, again emphasized his love for 8 Mile.
While he encouraged us to bring a CD of our favorite songs for the ride to Detroit, he warned that listening to “8 Mile” was a must. Our group social meeting this weekend centers on food and watching the “8 Mile” documentary about Eminem. And driving by 8 Mile at some point during the trip is not up for debate.
This was a joke, to some extent.
When people ask me how I like my service group, I tell them that what I like most is how quickly we became comfortable with each other, how we so easily joke and encourage each other. At our second general meeting, there was even more laughter and sharing than before.
Our service may be serious and our interactions with the homeless may challenge us, but there is a sense of community and positivity stemming from our humor that will encourage and energize our group.
I saw this in between serious conversations we had at our second general meeting, which emphasized two main ideas:
- 1) That we should liken ourselves to a guest as we stay and work at our service sites, and
- 2) That we should get comfortable with reflection and quiet time
Who is the ideal house guest? Someone who picks up after himself, is polite, is respectful to the host and his culture, and interacts with the host. The people we serve or work with are our hosts. We must be the ideal guests.
This idea struck a nerve as I reflected on it with my group.
Interacting with the poor and homeless makes me nervous. How do I relate to them? How do I become the love of Christ to them? How do I serve them?
Our service trip leaders emphasized a distinct difference between helping and serving. To help a person implies that they are broken, needy, or hurting and you are not; you are superior and they are inferior. To “help” is to remain the person who is strong and sure and able, protected and safe above their pain.
To serve is to join someone in someone’s struggles. It requires you to make yourself vulnerable, to feel what they feel and experience their life first-hand, forgetting your strength and assurance in your ability. It is solidarity, understanding, and empathy. You become equal because you have taken up their cross.
Nothing scares me and excites me more than challenging myself to live the struggles of the homeless and reflecting on how I can bring God’s love to them through service.
This fear and nervousness is not the traditional kind. It is the knowledge that I am going to be uncomfortable – and encouraged to sit with this discomfort and reflect on it.
It is a good kind of fear, though; it will challenge my typical, Creighton-bubble perspective.
As my group talked about the work we will be doing, the way reflection will go, and how we can be present and in solidarity with those we serve, jokes about Eminem, jogging to 8 Mile, and visiting Canada broke up the seriousness.
Looking around at my group members at this second meeting, I saw six distinctly different people. Each of us brings a different perspective, personality, and sense of humor, but each of us is joined by a common desire to serve others.
It struck me how close we had grown in such a short period of time and how much fun we were having at a simple logistics meeting. More than anything, my group members’ passion for service and friendliness assured me that I would not be challenged alone.
We will not only be in solidarity with the homeless people we serve, but also with each other, through both our jokes and our serious reflections about what it means to serve the homeless.
I am excited to be challenged and have fun with my group, serving 4 miles from 8 Mile.
Read Anna’s first post of the series: Spring Break in…Detroit