Greetings from Chicago! Ben and Kelsey here to catch you up on the first two days of our week. We can’t really complain, our trip started out by arriving safely at the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist mission where, yes, we get to eat the delicious food of Chopped Champion Sr. Alica Torres. Sunday was our first official day where we went to Mass at the Cathedral. When people tell you that deep dish pizza is the best pizza you will ever have in America, they are not lying. We ate at Giordano’s restaurant. We can all according to Savanna, now say “we’ve officially “BEAN” tourist’s in Chicago” after we visited the bean. We also took the time to stop at The Chicago Art Institute. Today, we worked around the mission doing different tasks such as cleaning and organizing bins (which I (Kelsey) will probably dream of, there were so many). Cleaning pews in the church. Experiencing working with kids at Kelly Hall YMCA after school program and reflecting on the many adventures we have had thus far.
Even as I continue to step out of my bounds and into this crazy world of adulthood, I still find myself running into the metaphorical brick walls of differing cultures. Today we traveled to Kelly Hall, a YMCA center that is a part the mission for this neighborhood. The after school program there is designed to keep kids off the streets while giving them a safe haven for a couple hours after school. While talking with some of the older kids, I quickly realized that I held very little in common with them. While their sports were basketball and football, mine were rowing and gymnastics. Their lives differed from mine in almost every way possible and I sat their awkwardly while trying to think of something to say. For me it begged the question, what have I done to deserve the life I have been given? I know in my heart that I have been blessed by the grace of God, yet it is still difficult for me to be content that this is merely how things are. Nothing I do will drastically change these people’s lives in a week, but my hope is that through these awkward exchanges, that I will learn to better communicate with a people I don’t always fully understand.
The Hidden Christ (Kelsey Bogumill)
I am a person who loves to understand, well, pretty much everything in life! Symbolism and reflection hold much meaning in my heart! So, one would assume that walking around The Chicago Art Institute is the perfect place to encounter meaning through symbolism and reflection. However, walking around the Modern Art exhibit was everything except being able to make sense of the art before us, which included paintings with just plain orange and white stripes, abstract art that made you question if you should submit your own abstract art to the Chicago Institute, and blank canvas’s in the color of white and blue (yes, I did say blank). This is not to stir you away from the Chicago Art Institute, we saw many truly beautiful pieces. It just shows that wandering around this exhibit, I was very quick to judge. Not just the art, but the people who made the art. Until I stumbled across a painting titled, “Heaven”…
Standing before this piece, I found myself (as I did with every other piece I came across) trying so hard to understand it. If I didn’t understand it, I was quick to judge it, and in my mind it shouldn’t be up on the wall. Art isn’t supposed to be hard to look at, right!? Then, something hit me. A word that truly we don’t understand, empathy. I started to let go of understanding, and began to view this piece through the lens of empathy. I tried to put myself into the shoes of this young woman. Instead of trying to understand this creative beauty, I let go, and tried to see what this artist see’s. That her painting reveals to the world what “heaven” is to her. What life is to her. What beauty, truth, and goodness are to her. But, most importantly, what love means to her. Woah!
This experience changed how I was going to enter into the rest of the week. I didn’t come to Chicago to “understand” a new culture of people, their world, or even who they are. I came to Chicago to serve! I came to put myself in the shoes of “the other”, to be with these people in their world as it is and love them there. Understanding is my way of grasping to make the uncomfortable, well, comfortable. Like the painting, it was time to let that go. As St. John Paull II famously stated, “Do not be afraid”. This week, will be a week of being open to where Christ is inside these people and sharing that love to help their poverties become less of a poverty, and more a grace and love that takes a deep root! It’s time to “go out” and meet Christ in the lives that we encounter.