You ask me, “Where are you being called to go from here?” My first and most forceful gut reaction is, “Home.” I miss it fiercely. On the surface, that answer could sound like a regression. In the last year I’ve graduated from college, moved across the country, lived with five incredibly inspiring and fun-loving women, worked as a nurse at a men’s homeless shelter, and now I just want to go back home?
Yes, desperately. My heart has been in a grueling tug-of-war and letting go of that rope sounds like sweet relief. Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’ve realized the deep bond of love and support within my family is absolutely extraordinary. It explains why after both my sisters moved away from home, it was only a few short years before they moved right back. My whole family – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, my five siblings, their spouses, and my seventeen nieces and nephews – all lives within 30 minutes of one another. To some this might sound suffocating, but to me it is so uplifting. I love having so many people to visit with, laugh with, cry with, dance, sing, hug, play. Joy or sorrow, we hold each other tight.
Although the communities I have been a part of during my year of service in Syracuse have been nothing short of wonderful, my heart is still yearning to be back with the people and in the place where I feel most at home and most myself. However, I will carry home the new perspectives, insights, and visions that I could have never imagined without my time in Syracuse. Eleven months in a homeless shelter has taught me the harsh truth behind poverty, addiction, disability, healthcare, and the criminal justice system in this country. I understand (mostly) the heartbreak, trauma, accidents, and desperation that lead people to the shelter. I understand (somewhat) the complex government systems of Social Security (SSI and SSDI), Public Assistance, SNAP Benefits, Unemployment Insurance, Section 8 Housing, Veteran Affairs, and several others. I see how the criminal justice systems and healthcare systems often fall short of the goals they aim to achieve, and I have learned where and how these gaps are consistently letting people slip through, or worse, pushing them out. The reality of how and why people continue to be marginalized is more cruel and complicated than I could have imagined. Therefore, I believe the solutions must be more kind and comprehensive than we have ever attempted. This is the vision I will take with me as I return home and engage my career as a nurse, hopefully working at the hospital where I was born. It is a bitter-sweet sense of coming full circle. Of course, these are the big, life-changing sort of ideas I will carry with me, but there are countless other small and daily changes I hope to incorporate into my life based on what I’ve experienced this year. For example, I now know that I don’t enjoy living in freezing temperatures and feet of snow for months on end, so I will choose to avoid that at all costs. Something I do love is having people to share my faith with and setting aside intentional time for prayer and reflection each day, so I will continue dedicating space to this. I love living simply and using a budget to be aware of the resources I use, so I will keep prioritizing sustainability and stewardship in this way. And with all my heart, I love spending time outside and surrounding myself with people who share this passion, so I will seek the people and places that nurture my love for creation. After a year on the east coast, I still believe west is best, but now I have a better understanding of both, and most importantly, a better understanding of myself.
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