During my first year volunteering in Detroit with Mercy Volunteer Corps, I thought time went quickly. Now that I only have a few months left of my second year of volunteering…. I am aghast. When? How? The control freak in me is shaking my finger at the calendar saying “I didn’t give you permission to be April already!” My community members, Alex and Daniella, have started hiding the calendars!
The last few months have been trying, invigorating, and reflective. I have new-found gratitude for everyone devoted to Mercy in Detroit. Alex, Daniella, and I really do have a special community here. The Sisters of Mercy are the most patient, supportive, and radical women I have ever met, and they have become a resource of love and understanding; the MVC alumni are easily accessible for help, food, or Enneagram lessons; and our service sites continue to help us grow and give us a lot to talk and laugh about over dinner.
The best way to summarize the last couple of months is through pictures (1000 words each, right?)
The above photograph was taken at one of the most thought-provoking events we have attended this year. It was a public discussion entitled “Why Are They Angry With Us?” that focused on the hostile relations and interactions between black and white people in this country. It was about a 50-50 split of white and black attendees, and it was absolutely fascinating.
The opinions of the black folks there were diverse. One gentleman was a segregationist; he believed blacks and whites should be segregated for the black communities own good. He described how he would prefer to have a separate economy, area to live, government, justice system, marriages etc. He explained that as long as whites remain dominant in society, then no good will come to the black community. He believes that any attempt to live amongst whites will only ever, at best, lead to second-class citizenship for him and his people (his words).
Throughout this 2.5 hour conversation, there was no anger or hostility, no name-calling, no discounting anyone else’s experience. I think most of us walked away with our hearts full and our minds actively empathetic. In the end, most of us concluded that the commonalities between us were more powerful than the differences that are used to divide us.
Here are my students at Detroit Cristo Rey High School at morning announcements in February during Black History Month. For every day we had school in February, students or staff came up to the microphone with either a biography of a historical Black American, a poem, a song, or [as the picture above depicts] some sort of art or skit.
One way Alex, Daniella and I distress is through coloring mandalas. This was originally inspired by Sister Karen Egri, RSM who provided us with reflective mandala drawing books. We have since expanded our collection of mandala outline books to include three more, plus super neat, many-colored calligraphy pens. We have turned our dining room into our display case.
I never have thought of myself as artistic, but I am quite excited about how some of these beauties turned out.
Daniella left to her home country, Malawi, in mid-March for a few weeks. Here we are enjoying the very rare occasion of eating out. We enjoyed our delicious community meal by eating through four entrées of Thai food!
Alex and I celebrated Easter Sunday at the McAuley Center with many of the retired Sisters of Mercy (featured above left).
Once Daniella joined us again, we had an entire weekend devoted to sitting on the couch, wrapped head to foot in blankets, catching up on our lives. I honestly don’t think we left the house even once that Saturday. From the outside looking in I am sure it appeared to be 100% laziness, but for us it was 100% necessary to have that time devoted to only us so we could reconnect and solidify our community.
Since our reunion, we have celebrated Alex’s birthday! 23 years young!! In the picture above you can also see Rich Sanmartino [right, middle], a Detroit Mercy Volunteer who served with me last year, and Niam Edwards [head of the table], who volunteered in Detroit last year with the Capuchin Volunteer Corps.
Mercy Education Project is an MVC site that supports girls through free after-school tutoring and women of all ages by offering GED classes. While no one in our community is serving at MEP this year, the three of us were able to infiltrate Mercy when we volunteered at their annual Doorway Event. We were designated dinner-table navigators, as well as auction-item distributors (Alex is featured above distributing auction items).
I am truly living a blessed, and busy, merciful life here in Detroit. Even though my time with Alex and Daniella is flying by, I am infinitely grateful for all of these fast-paced experiences. Mercy is Love, and we Love Detroit.
KT Ulfers: Detroit