Gaining New Perspectives
I am very grateful to have had the time to think and reflect on everything I experienced in L.A., as there has been a lot to think about. One of the biggest things that I have come to realize is that it is necessary for us to seek the truth in everything. For most of my life, I have relied on the opinions and ideas of other people. Being in Montana, these opinions and ideas were probably not completely right or, in some cases, completely wrong. It is a blessing that I have had the privilege to educate myself on immigration, gang membership (or non-membership), and restorative justice (reintegrating ex-“criminals” into society and reducing recidivism).
I have learned that we often have our own set opinions on such issues and aren’t even aware that they are inaccurate. Immigration, for example, isn’t even a problem in Montana, yet we still might have strong opinions on the matter. Yet, we don’t know or understand the first thing about it. After meeting homeless immigrant men, who many of them are undocumented, I came to understand immigration just a fraction of a bit better. What I do know, though, is that those men should not be denied access to anything that we have or any opportunities that we have. It is much easier to deny them opportunities if we don’t know them and don’t educate ourselves about them. I don’t think anyone could ever deny immigrants special opportunities or say they are against immigration if they were to actually meet and converse with the men that we had the opportunity to meet. They are human beings with dignity, and that is quite apparent when looking them in the face.
The same goes with people who have served time in jail. We had the opportunity to meet two men who had just served a period of time for second degree murder. What comes to mind when you first hear this? These men are probably worthless and evil criminals who should not be in society. Well guess what: they were employed at the office of restorative justice where we visited, helping others who had spent time in prison find jobs and support their families. The men were doing wonderful things in the world and were very capable. This is what people are not educated on: people who spend time in jail always go back to a place that encourages more and more criminal activity. They go back to a place where, in order to survive and support their families, they have to engage in criminal activity. These are very important things to think about.
I have also learned through reflection that although there is a lot of evil in this world (I am specifically thinking of Skid Row and gang activity), there is simultaneously a lot of goodness. We met several people who are currently doing wonderful things to improve the lives of those whose odds are against them. I believe that Carroll College has really shaped me to be able to do the same thing. While I have been very sad that I have had to say good-bye to my wonderful friends at Carroll, I find comfort in the fact that we have all been shaped to change the world. I know now that my decision to commit myself for a year in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps is the right thing to do. I am very much looking forward to my experience in Philadelphia and I’ll always know that my experiences and friends at Carroll can inspire me to my very best work.