As I move towards retirement and see more of the past than future, it seems…
Biking with God
It’s 7:50am and I take a right onto 19th Street, a quick right onto C Street, and then a left onto the Sacramento Northern Bikeway. I pass under the train tracks above me and see the graffiti along the cement walls. On my left is the Blue Diamond Almond Factory, and on my right, there are some trees and lifeless looking grass. Among the trees and grass, there are tents upon tents and tarps upon tarps, occupied by people experiencing homelessness who are camping along the bike path. I see worn-out furniture, clothing hanging along the fence line, mini grills, little handmade fire pits, blankets, bikes, and roaming dogs getting into garbage. It’s strangely quiet as I ride along except for the trucks passing by on the other side of the fence at the factory, the barking dogs, and occasionally a few other bikers. I feel a silence over me and the stillness of the early morning. However, what I see to my right fills my head with racing thoughts seeing how visible homelessness, drug addiction, mental illness, and other issues are. If I let them, my thoughts become overwhelming and anxiety-ridden, so instead, I start talking to God. I pray about the issues that are so visible within the city of Sacramento and beyond, and I pray for the people experiencing homelessness and what they are enduring. I think about what I am grateful for and thank God for a new day. I feel the stillness of the early morning once again, and I thank God for being with me as I bike.
It’s the Little Things
“Lily! Two people signed up for coffee and conversation!” Kelsey, my co-worker and a former Jesuit Volunteer, said to me a few weeks ago as she came back into the office. Coffee and conversation is a new group we started where we drop off the items for the residents to make coffee at their door and then we have a conversation over Zoom (all our groups are happening virtually right now because of the pandemic). Workplaces everywhere have to function differently now because of COVID-19, and trying to engage the residents at Quinn is not easy. Only one resident ended up joining for coffee and conversation, but it’s about the little things, especially nowadays. Our supervisor always reminds us that we just have to keep showing up, and even if only one or two residents participate, we are still making an impact. Life really is about showing up anyway, regardless of who else does.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous when I found out there was only going to be one other person in my community here in Sacramento. I applied to MVC in January of 2020 and committed in March days before COVID-19 hit the US. I knew that typically MVC communities were made up of four volunteers, so that’s what I anticipated and hoped for. As coronavirus cases continued to rise, I knew it was possible that not as many people would be able to commit to a year of service this year. In the end, the spots in Sacramento didn’t all fill. Before arriving in Sacramento, I was apprehensive about what community would look like with just one other person because I have always thought about community as more than just two people. It was really out of my comfort zone to do a year of service and accept a placement across the country from my hometown in Cleveland. I knew that God was pushing me further out of my comfort zone when I found out I would just have one community member. I had no idea how things would go, but I have quickly realized how grateful I am for the way it is working out. It’s just what I needed. My community member and I are always laughing. And when I say always…I mean always. Ask Amy from our support team, she knows. My perception of community has shifted, and there is something special about a community of two people. It has allowed us to be vulnerable and present with each other and share in this unique space and time. We push each other, and it has been awesome to see growth in ourselves and in one another. It’s a beautiful thing when you can see why God put someone in your life at a certain time. I couldn’t be more grateful that Marcellese and I get to do this journey together. Here’s to laughing often!
Lily Hannibal: Sacramento, California