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High School Visit

14 Apr

On Monday, the Day Worker Center received a visit from Notre Dame High School.  There was a large group of students in various Spanish classes who came to talk to and interview the workers in addition to sharing a meal. While I did not sit in on the interviews, I did see the effect it had on the workers.

There were more smiles. I could see people getting animated as they shared their life story, their triumphs, their hardships, and why they came to this country. I think that many times, while waiting for a week to get one day of work, some of the workers may think that nobody cares or realizes what they do to earn a living. They get discouraged when nobody notices what an impact they have on this community.

But Monday was different. Having the students come to ask questions about their lives made a difference. It showed that people actually care and are willing to take the time to learn about people who are different from them. Staying within our own social groups–that is easy. But making the effort to learn and understand someone else’s culture and lifestyle does not just change one’s perspective–it makes life more worthwhile.

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It Just Takes Practice

24 Mar

I am continually amazed how spending time with the workers at the Day Worker Center challenges me to rethink my opinions and see things in a new light.

For example, let’s take a look at one young man I’ll call Ricardo. He looks like one of those tough guys with his beanie and hoodie covering part of his face. He tends to have headphones in most of the time, and generally looks like someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. But what some people don’t know about Ricardo is that he’s very artistic. He’s been accepted into art school and would like to go if they give him financial aid. I caught a glimpse of him the other day helping some of the kids who come to the center with art projects. He knows how to fold beautiful paper flowers, and evidence of his works lies concealed in small corners or tiny vases around the center.

Or how could I forget how Edy, when I told him I didn’t know how to dance, taught me cumbia there on the spot. “Es facil,” he told me. And it turned out that it was easy. We danced to the music on someone’s portable speakers, much to the amusement of those around us.

Lastly, I think of Andres, a handyman who does all kinds of labor. But he also helps with sewing projects. One volunteer named Naomi comes in every so often to help orchestrate art projects in general; the latest thing has been helping sew patches for a beautiful quilt. The patches themselves are quite impressive, but the quilt as a whole is stunning. Andres was talking about how he learned some English from a friend, but that it still took a lot of effort for him to advance. I told him that it just took practice and that he would get it eventually. When the conversation eventually turned back to the current project, he asked me if I sew. I told him I didn’t. “Por que?” he asked me. Lots of reasons, but the main one was that I just didn’t like it, it took too much time, and I get frustrated.

“It just takes practice. Practice and you’ll get it eventually.” Who knew that I would get my words thrown back at me?

Dreams of an Education

29 Jan

Have you ever heard any of these comments? “I don’t feel like going to school today.” “Midterms are such a pain.” “I just can’t wait to graduate and be done.” It has struck me how much we take our education for granted here in the United States.  We dread going to school, doing homework, or taking tests, but we seldom realize what an opportunity we have been given to learn.

Not so with Wilber. I was talking to him the other day, and he told me how much he had always wanted to continue with school. He has only an elementary school education from his country, but he has never given up on the dream of learning. “I want to be an engineer,” he tells me. “I love drawing up plans by hand.” He hopes to continue his education so that he could one day design buildings.

Ana is also learning. It was only yesterday that I helped her obtain her first email address. She wants to be able to keep up with modern technology, so she is learning how to use a computer for the first time. Her fingers hesitantly brush over the keyboard as they search for the correct letters. One by one she finds them and slowly types out her very first email. It only says “Hola,” but what an accomplishment it is for someone who previously had no computer skills.

What has inspired me during my time at the center is how much people like Wilber and Ana want to learn something completely new. They may not have had every opportunity presented to them, but they do not use that as an excuse.