Recently Reflecting

January 25, 2010

Upon beginning this blog it was both a personal hope and a promise made to readers that I would not only share of my tangible experiences while at LIRS, but also that I would take time to reflect upon my personal transformation during my year of volunteering.

I am uncertain as to whether or not I have mentioned this in previous posts, but a significant part of my volunteer experience thus far has been my living situation. After work I go home every day to a place called Reservoir Hill House of Peace (RHHP).

In a giant old brick house I live with three other Mennonite Volunteers, ten community members of Baltimore City, and three people who are currently in the process of seeking asylum in the Untied States. Fifteen people in one house can mean a lot of different things; one of the most significant products that I see coming out of RHHP is a beautiful and vibrant bringing together of different cultures. Currently, with six different countries represented amongst my housemates and I, there is always a new food to try, language to learn, and story to hear.

Last night many of us in the house gathered to celebrate the birthdays of two fellow housemates. We sat around the table together discussing issues of education and immigration. We talked about birthdays, and food, and the flu. We talked about “the next step” in life. As I sat listening and looking around the table, hearing the thoughts of those I sat with, smiling at these faces and people that I have come to know and care for, I felt extreme significance in what was happening.

I sat at a table full of people and faces and stories. I was thinking about how my “next step” in life sounds and looks so incredibly different then anyone else’s in my house. I live with fourteen other people who have each experienced life in a radically different way.  Many have had the experience of walking a journey that is long and unfamiliar. Some are in the process of learning a new language; many are navigating a new city. Most people are living away from their families and loved ones.

We come from different places and have lead incredibly different lives. We are all in extreme transition. At times we experience the same thing in different ways, and other times we experience different things in a similar way. But still, we sit together around the same table, sharing our thoughts and opinions with one another. We learn and we grow and we help each other.

My year at LIRS is devoted to learning about “welcome”. Both internally and externally this organization strives to exude an attitude of welcome. I have been sent on a quest to better understand what this word, this attitude, might look like in a variety of different contexts. While I continue to travel and meet people and hear stories, I find it entirely necessary to stop and recognize that “welcome” happens each day when I go home and am greeted by friends in the kitchen.

As one house member wrote about RHHP “For such a mix of people going through changes, RHHP provides sanctuary and community which makes it easier for them to live through these times of uncertainty.” RHHP is a house of welcome.

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