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A Day in the Life of West Humboldt Park Written by Natalie Butler

Title: A Day in the Life of West Humboldt Park

Subhead: A group of college students drove three hours north to sway from the mainstream spring break to serve a poverty pocket in Chicago

 

Effortless, engaging, and empowering do not even begin to describe my week.  I attended the alternative spring break in Chicago with nine other people from the Marian University community.  We stayed at a convent in West Humboldt Park with the Our Lady of Angels priest, sisters, and postulants.  We served by doing manual labor with various projects for the sisters.  We also got to observe and to interact at a charter school across the street from the convent.  In the afternoons, we walked a block to the Kelly Hall YMCA to be a part of different groups of children all week.  Every day ended with reflection, games, and music.  Throughout my week, I continued to build relationships with all sorts of people.

I slam my alarm at 6:35 a.m. and I have fifteen minutes to get ready and be out the door for daily mass.  I scramble myself together, rush down the stairs, and our group runs across the street to the rectory chapel.  After Mass, we set up for breakfast and all of us reached for the oh so addicting Aussie Bites.  We cleared our plates, and our work with the sisters began.  Up and down, up and down, up and down the stairs we go.  Attic to basement, box to box we organized donated goods to a “Clean and Keep” pile or a “Donate” pile.  The next step was to go back up into the attic and scrub a year’s worth of dust off of the floors and cabinets.  On hands and knees, I brushed and scraped the floors feeling a bit like Cinderella.  The sisters kept the mood light with laughter constantly filling the air as we labored the day away.  Our team worked together to spiffy up the place; the rooms twinkled in the afternoon sun.  It was now time to walk a block to the Kelly Hall YMCA to spend time with group of third and fourth grade girls.

I walk into the room that I have spent the previous afternoons before, and I get clobbered by little munchkins hugging me and screaming my name.  I sat next to my new best friends and talked away about the days that grade schoolers have.  There were plenty of questions and stories to go around when we were interrupted with the announcement that the gym was now open for the girls to play basketball.  Wait, I have to play basketball?  This thought panicked me for a second, but this week was already filled with new experiences.  We chanted the names of the girls on our team as they dribbled down the court.  They were simple drills, but it is enough to build skill, character, and team work.  I felt like I was a kid again.  These girls have no idea how much they have taught me.  They have touched my life in ways that I could not have imagined.  I did not want to leave them at the end of the week, but I could not stay forever.

The group of college students returns to the convent to eat dinner with Father, the Sisters, and the postulants.  My everyday chore was to wash the dishes until they sparkled.  Once this task was completed, the night began.  Reflection was first where a group member or two lead us in looking back at our day and putting significance behind every experience.  Opening up and being honest with every single one of these group members created an unbelievable bond.  We served God’s people together, we ate together, we cleaned together, we spent every waking hour of the day together, and there was no storming whatsoever.

Even though every night was a late night that ended in exhaustion, we nevertheless pursued in our deep talks and music making. People trickled off to their sleeping quarters while two other members of the group and I stayed in the computer room to play the guitar and sing our hearts out.  I discovered a new side of myself, and my group made this very easy.  I could not have asked for a better group; I am truly blessed.  The bond rapidly transformed into a tight family unit.

All good things must come to an end.  I did not want to leave those children and sisters behind because we became a constant in their lives.  The sisters came to wish us a safe and a blessed trip back.  We said our goodbyes and hugged down a line of religious life.  We drove off of West Iowa Street as the sisters waved their white scarves in honor of the hard work we had done for them.  We could not help but to look back at all of the memories we made.  Our group had to go our separate ways as well and return back to being a student at Marian. I have rapidly learned and grown so much in my faith and as a person because of the new relationships I made and the people I interacted with.

 

 

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