I write this as we travel south on I-15 through my home state of Idaho on our way to East Los Angeles. Isn’t it amazing the connectivity that technology offers us? I can chat with my van-mates, learning about other members of the Carroll Community that I am so blessed to be a part of, while also writing a blog post, even as my phone buzzes to remind me that I have a new email from my office.
And yet, as many of us have learned the hard way, this style of connectivity can also consume us, building up walls around us rather than opening channels of deep and authentic relationship. After all, am I truly connecting with the others in our van as I type this post?
This hyper-connectivity is the greatest blessing and also the greatest challenge in my daily life (funny how it usually works that way, isn’t it?). For several years now I have traveled extensively in my work with the Institute for Excellence & Ethics studying schools, implementing intervention programs, and facilitating workshops and retreats for educators and students. This style of work would be impossible without technology; I am able to respond to emails within minutes, I scramble to create documents during the moments when “electronic devices may be used” on flights, and interact with colleagues through blogs and Twitter. These days a lack of consistent internet connection can be a miniature disaster.
This technology also allows me to stay connected to friends and family, both to those at home (a term which for me has come to represent many different places) and those who are scattered around the world. I would be heartbroken without my Friday afternoon conversations with my mother, and there have many times that receiving a text, email, or tweet has lifted my spirit at just the right moment.
And yet this constant connectivity also has dramatic ramifications if not kept in check. I can’t remember a time in the last three years that I haven’t been keenly aware of the emails that still await a reply, of the document that could use a little more editing, or the call I should have placed on a friend’s birthday that I neglectfully allowed to pass.
Perhaps the reason this frantic style of connection is stressful to us is because we are speaking of networks rather than relationships. While technology now allows us to build and maintain highly developed networks, these are different from the deep, intimate relationships that the deepest parts of our human souls seek.
For me, this trip to East Los Angeles presents the opportunity to disconnect (to at least some degree) and to develop relationships with the participating Carroll students and Alumni, but also to enter into relationship with the people in the communities we will serve. Two classic trappings of service trips can be a voyeuristic style of tourism and a misguided mindset that often resembles a savior-complex, so instead we will seek to serve in a better way.
We will focus on embodying a way of being that Dr. Paul Farmer refers to as “accompaniment”. We will act as simple servants, as brothers and sisters sharing a journey. We will serve with our hands and feet and voices when we are able, but more importantly we will serve with our eyes and our ears, our smiles and our laughter and our tears, and our steps, steps that we will take with those we serve and serve alongside.
Even though you won’t be in East Los Angeles with us this week, I hope you will join us as we walk together this week. I humbly ask you to shower our group, and more importantly those that we will meet along the way, with your prayers and your positive thoughts as we prepare to walk the “path of peace” into an area that suffers all too frequently from a lack of it.
There are two great ways you can do so using the technology that is right on your fingertips. You’re already doing the first, which is reading this blog, and I encourage you to continue doing so as we share our experiences throughout the week.
Here’s a second way: By clicking here, you can see the Dolores Mission (where we will work and stay) and the rest of Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles. When you get a moment this week (and perhaps beyond this week if you remember to do so), open this link and say a prayer for peace in the lives of all those currently present in the blocks that appear on your screen. It’s a simple but powerful way to put the spirituality of accompaniment into practice, even from afar.
Thank you for prayers, positive thoughts, and support as begin this trip. Stay tuned for more reflections and photos from our group throughout our trip.
Kyle Baker, ‘06
The crew starting off with a prayer this morningbefore departing from the Carroll College campus.