Our First Day at School
Today was our first day of “real” service. After an early morning, we showed up at De La Salle School at 8:00 AM, where we stayed until 4:30 in the afternoon, spending time in classrooms tutoring and getting to know students. Like all of us, I was unsure of what to expect out of the school and the students. My experiences throughout the day were very eye opening.
Having heard about the many social challenges in Browning, I was surprised to see how much the fifth grade classroom I was in was like any other fifth grade classroom I knew. What I found uncommon about the class was the evident love between the teacher and the students. Like any other group of ten year olds, there were some behavioral problems. We all agreed that the way discipline is handled at the school reflects a true love and community between teachers and students. Even when students were reprimanded, they showed a respect for the teachers and seemed to genuinely understand why they were in trouble. Reflecting on this, we agreed that the ability to discipline someone in order to help him or her be the best they can be is a necessary part of true selfless love. This unique classroom environment exemplifies the deep sense of caring and community in Browning.
After spending several hours in the classroom with students, we headed to lunch in the basement of Little Flower Parish, which is located next door to the school. Here I received a serious reality check. As I walked to the church I saw a shiny white hearse parked in front, and people entering the church. We had been told the previous day about the staggering number of funerals held at that parish, and the disturbing fact that many of these funerals were for young people. Eating lunch in the basement while a funeral service took place above us made this reality clear. It was humbling to look around and see these very normal, apparently innocent children going nonchalantly about their lives in an environment that makes innocence almost impossible to hold on to. As I reflected on all of the blessings I take for granted, which many of these students may never experience the words of Christ, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Matthew 10:8) became very real to me. This experience really pushed me to give of myself in service this week and to make service a more serious part of my life as I return to Carroll.
At the end of the day, we watched a very powerful film called Smoke Signals, which chronicles a young Coeur d’Alene Indian’s efforts to make sense of his identity in the wake of his father’s death. Having spent the day serving in a place where such realties are not uncommon, the film really hit home. Overall, today was a day of moving experiences, which left me, excited to see how we will encounter Christ in the remainder of this trip.