Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Patricia's Hope

Yesterday morning, I was working at the lunch ticket line virtually all morning. I've begun to learn many of the guests names, so I used the day as a challenge to remember as many as I possibly could since I was giving basically everyone their lunch tickets. Probably around 10am when the line had been calm for a while, a woman that I love came up to the window. I typed Patricia's name into the computer and asked her how she was doing. There wasn't a line, so we could talk, but I expected what I got from most guests, "Fine, how are you?". Instead, Patricia surprised me. Patricia began to tell me her tale of woes from the day. She was staying at a shelter, and the shelter had let her family know she was there. At first, I was confused as to why one wouldn't want her family to know where she is if they're wanting to help. Then, I continued to listen to Patricia. I found out that when she'd needed her family the most, they were not there. They're coming back into her life when she's getting better and figuring things out on her own. Patricia is afraid that by coming into her life, her family is going to end up disrupting her progress. At this time, a line was forming behind Patricia at the counter, and she had begun to cry. I reached across the counter, patted her on the back with one hand and held her hand with my other. I assured her that she is an amazing woman and that her progress will only stop if she lets it. That if she does not want to be in contact with her family, she does not have to be. I let her know that Loaves & Fishes, Friendship Park especially, would always be there for her. When I told her that she is part of our family, her eyes lit up, and she began to smile. You could still see the pain in her eyes, but you could see hope too. She cheered up, thanked me for listening, and moved along with her day so that I could also move along with mine. My moment with Patricia yesterday was one of the most touching that I have had so far in my time at the park.

I think that the Bible is right when it says, "So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13. Faith, hope, and love are all things that I think I took for granted before this year. I have always been privileged enough to just know they're there. I would experience them every now and then, but I never really thought about the affect that faith, hope, and love have on our lives. Throughout the past month and a half, I've learned that being able to show guests that I have faith in them, gives them hope, and gives us mutual love and respect for each other. The hope that I saw in Patricia's eyes was enough to reassure me that God does exist in every one of us.

I sometimes think about the 4th of July when one of my cousins asked me why I was moving across the country to make no money and help people I don't know. I remember not having an answer for him at the time, but the longer I'm here, the more reasons I keep coming up with. Right now, my answer would be that I was lucky enough to have been born into a loving family, and now it is my time to share the love that has been passed onto me with others. Strangers are only strangers until you exchange greetings. Introduce yourself, and now they're an acquaintance, moving towards a deeper relationship/friendship. I have many friends throughout the country, and I can't imagine having done anything other than make hundreds of friends at Friendship Park this year.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Day Working in Friendship Park

This morning, I woke up at 6:15am. I rolled out of bed and changed into capris and an XL Loaves & Fishes t-shirt. Finished getting ready, and started the walk to Friendship Park with 2 of my roommates.

We arrived at the park a little late (6:50am) and finished setting up the service center. Then the staff circled up for morning prayer. The clock then turned to 7am and we opened to gates to the public. I was working the lunch ticket line this morning. There were a surprising number of people that had never been to Loaves and Fishes before in line this morning, but the computer put-putted along while I entered names and clicked them so that we would know they'd received a lunch ticket. At one point, one of the guests came up and started spelling his last name for me. I told him that I already had him covered, and he was shocked! He said that in the 6 months he's been coming, no one could remember his name/how to spell it. Seeing the joy when I can remember someone's name is one of the favorite parts of my day. Last week, I remembered one of the other guests names, and he had the same reaction. I love being able to get that reaction because I think it makes them feel like somebody really cares, and that they're not just another lunch ticket.

A little later, I entered a guest into the computer and smiled, said "Have a great day!" He looked back at me and said "Smile again." I did. He then said "You have a beautiful smile, I'd buy you McDonald's every day." (Thank you mom & dad for getting me braces!) It was really sweet, yet sad that to all of my friends in the park, McDonald's is classy.

Then, it was almost 11am, and I was talking to two of the guests. They were asking me how I picked Sacramento/Loaves and Fishes, so I was trying to explain the process when another guest came up with a question. They allowed me to help him, and while I was looking for the answer he wanted, yet another guest came up to me hollering that someone was having a seizure. I had to leave the two men I was talking to, the man that I was trying to answer a question for, and hurry out of the park to the nearby alley along 12th Street to help a woman having a seizure.

When I arrived, another green hat was already there. I stayed to help him keep people away from her and direct the paramedics where they needed to go. One of the street monitor green hats came and was on the phone with 9-1-1 when he arrived by us. He didn't know the woman's name or anything, so he had to pass the phone over to me so that I could answer the few questions that I knew the answer to. After I'm done talking to 9-1-1, he leaves and goes back to monitoring the street. A woman on her way to mass was walking down the alley way and stopped and prayed for our guest until the paramedics arrived. She seemed like one of those people that tries to push their religion on others, but I really think she was the angel looking over this lady. Right before the woman left, our guest started slowly waking up from her seizure. Then the paramedics arrived, and I told them what I knew while two other green hats stopped traffic through the alley way. Once I'd told the paramedics all I knew, one of the green hats told me I could leave and go to lunch.

I then returned to the Park, answered the question that the one man had been asking me, apologized to the two men I'd had to leave in mid-conversation, and grabbed my water bottle to head to lunch. Today, lunch was chili dogs, corn/vegetable medley, potato wedges, pears, and chocolate chip cookies. It was tasty, but very filling. It was very nice to get that break right after dealing with a seizure though.

After lunch, I returned to the service counter and worked the service counter side for a bit. Then the other volunteers returned, and we were closing the ticket window (it closes at 12:45pm, lunch ends at 1pm). So I put the window up and locked it. Then I started stamping tickets for next week in the chair by the computer while our Wednesday volunteers worked the service counter.

At 2pm, we did JV trivia, and today, the questions were easy enough that we didn't have to find new ones to ask. The park is only opened for 45 minutes after JV trivia, so I was busy getting things ready for close. I emptied the garbage from behind the service counter, finished stamping a stack of tickets, and then closed the service counter at 2:30pm and helped my co-workers lock the cabinets and put things away. After the park closed at 2:45pm, we had a short staff meeting where I told my highlight of being told I have a beautiful smile. Our boss mentioned that someone had sneaked their dog into the park and it'd had babies there today. Then around 3pm, we headed home.

Now that I'm home, it's time to start preparing for my roommate Kathleen's birthday. We're having pulled pork, sweet potato fries, green beans, and cake tonight to celebrate! :) I'm excited.

There you have it though, a day in the life of a Jesuit Volunteer at Friendship Park. Every day is different.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Getting Busier

I just realized that it's been 2 weeks since I last posted. I'm going to try to become better at updating everyone that reads this. I've felt very busy these past 2 weeks, but I don't think I've actually been too busy. Most nights after work I don't really do anything, but then weekends fly by because I seem to always be doing something.

Last weekend started on Thursday, Sept 8. It was my friend Drew's birthday and we all celebrated him by watching the first game of regular season. Sadly, the Saints lost to the Packers, but I suppose there are worse teams they could lose to... Then my house had Spirituality night on Friday. On Saturday, I played frisbee with Newman, then my ride was playing with other friends too, so I played with them after Newman... After about 4 hours of frisbee, I went home. That evening, we were having a birthday party for Cait at the Mercy Volunteers house (her birthday was on Monday, Sept. 12). Then that Sunday, we had a welcoming BBQ at the MV house. It was a busy weekend.

Work went pretty well this past week. We had 2 FJV's over for dinner on Monday night, then the MV's over for dinner on Tuesday. We had spirituality night on Wednesday, then volunteer orientation for the Women's Empowerment Gala on Thursday. We celebrated Mexican Independence Day on Friday. Went to frisbee on Saturday, but only Newman frisbee. Then I went out to eat with Nick, Laura, and Tyler afterwards. Then met up with my house as they finished eating. Hung out for a bit before leaving for dinner and the Mountain Lions game with Nick. Mountain Lions weren't very good, but it was still fun to go. It felt kind of like a high school/college game. Afterwards, we went to Joe's house, had some delicious homemade ice cream, watched Psych, then headed home. This morning I had a one-on-one with one of our support people which was really nice, and now I'm watching the Raiders lose to Buffalo (barely, it was a close game) and watched the Saints win via NFL Game Center... It's been a good football weekend with Tulane winning 49-10 yesterday! Too bad the Chiefs are HORRIBLE this year.

No good stories have really occurred at work within the past two weeks. This Thursday, there was a SafeGround Jubilee which we marched from Friendship Park to Cesar Chavez Park (where the Jubilee was) in solidarity with the homeless, trying to get them a permanent spot to sleep at night. This is the first winter in a long while in which Sacramento won't have extra emergency shelters for the homeless, so a SafeGround will be especially necessary. It was really amazing to be involved in the jubilee and stand up with the homeless. There have also been 4 seizures at the park this past week. I'm not sure why I hadn't seen a single seizure at the park, then 4 happen in one week, but I suppose that's the park for you.

In other news, I found out that I can take Thanksgiving off, so I'll be flying home (arriving at MCI around 10am on Thanksgiving). I'll get to spend Thanksgiving with the family (so you better all be there!), then I'll be going to Penny's wedding on Saturday (so excited!!! Didn't think I'd be able to make it), seeing everyone at mass on Sunday, then driving Bella (my mazda) back to Cali with mom and dad. I'm so excited to get to go home, even if it's just for a couple days. It'll also be really nice to get a car for our house. It'll be helpful for grocery shopping, and especially for making it to frisbee on Saturdays and mass on Sundays. I can go to the Cathedral, but Newman is more of a community, so I prefer going there.

I hope all is well with each of you. Maybe something exciting will happen this week so that I will remember to update yall. Thanks for all of your support!

God bless,

Saturday, September 3, 2011

60% of the Time, It Works Every Time

Today, the Newman Center at Sacramento State had an ultimate frisbee tournament instead of just playing some pickup games like normal. We got there and they told us what teams we were on (they created the teams so that they'd be fairly even). I was on Team 3 with some of my favorite players and some people I hadn't met before. I was on a team with Alex, Erick, Joe, Clare, Sage, and LT. Erick arrived late, and we were playing Team 4 for the first round robin game. We were behind 3-0 when Erick finally arrived. Their 7th player finally got to start playing, and we finally had Erick. We then ended up winning the game 5-3.
Team 3 continued to work hard and played Team 1 right after, for round 2 of round robin. We took that game 5-2. Then we got a break. by our break, we were the only undefeated team left. On our break, we kept warm and practiced throwing/catching. We also decided that Team 3 wasn't cutting it as a name, so we became the Sex Panthers (60% of the time, it works every time). Break ends and we have to go play Kathleen, Laura, and Justin's team (Team 5). I was really nervous to play their team. Their entire team is really good, so I knew they'd be difficult. We ended up winning 5-3, and guaranteeing our spot in the playoffs. Then we have our final game of round robin against Team 2. We know we'll be in the playoffs, but we decided to work hard and try to remain undefeated. We ended up doing so with another 5-3 (maybe it was 5-4) victory. So everyone got a little break while the playoff teams were determined and we took a picture of everyone playing.
Playoffs ended up being Sex Panthers v. Team 5 and Team 2 v. Team 4. The game against Team 5 was extremely close. We got pretty far behind and had to come back. We ended up making it back to 4-4. Then on universe point, we finally scored and got ahead. So we're exhausted, but we're entering the championship game. Team 2 won on the other field to make the championship game. We're exhausted, but determined to not go home empty handed. We get behind 2-0 and decide to make up a chant to pump us back up. Joe lead, and we did our Sex Panther chant. It seemed like it was going to help at first because we all ran down the field with a lot more energy, but then Team 2 scored and made it 3-0. Finally we scored making it 3-1. We decide that we have to take it 1 point at a time and not worry about winning. Erick bringing up one point at a time, was possibly what got us through the game. It ended up being 4-1, then 5-3. Thank goodness we decided to play to seven. The people leading the tournament asked (when Team 2 scored their 5th point) if we just wanted to end it at 5 instead of playing to 7. All of Sex Panther agreed we couldn't give up, even if they scored 2 right away and beat us, it'd be better than giving up. Then we came back slowly but surely. 5-4... 5-5... and finally we take a lead at 6-5. It was our first lead of the game, and we only needed one more point to win. It seemed like it took forever, but we ended up getting the frisbee to Clare in the end zone to score our 7th point winning us the championship and keeping us undefeated.
It was an awesome experience, but it exhausted me for the day. I really enjoyed playing, and our team was very team oriented, we didn't have just a couple people that we used, we used everyone a lot. I was really nervous about playing the other teams because I knew who all of the all-star players were, and I wasn't sure that we'd been lucky enough to get one. It reminded me that you don't need an all-star on your team when you have communication and teamwork. I really am proud of my team. There were many times that we could've given up, especially in the championship game, but we kept at it like the turtle against the hare. Slow and steady wins the race.

Congratulations Sex Panthers! Hopefully we can defend our title in the Spring!